Biologists find panther kitten in Florida

There’s good news for a young female panther who was released into the wild earlier this year: She’s a mom.

The recent mother and her brother were rescued as 5-month-old orphaned kittens and raised in captivity. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission let the female go in southwest Florida on Jan. 31, when she was 21 months old.

Then, in late June, they discovered a 1-month-old female kitten in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park — close to where they released the rehabilitated panther.

“We were very excited to find this panther’s kitten,” said Dave Onorato, FWC panther biologist. Panthers are endangered, with only 100 to 160 believed to be living in the wild in South Florida.

Biologists think the mother became pregnant only about three weeks after she was released. When they found the kitten, they evaluated her health and tagged her for identification.

“Kitten survival rates are pretty low, but this kitten looked healthy and feisty,” said Onorato. “The kitten has a chance of one day contributing to the population as well.”