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Despite Release Of Rescued Panther, 2013 Off To A Rough Start For Endangered Florida Panther

Tim Donovan

The upbeat news of a Florida panther's release at the end of January was dampened by confirmation of the recent deaths of two panthers in the wild.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported that last week,  it  released a female panther into Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County.  That site was chosen based on the number of female panthers already living in that range. The cat was outfitted with a radio collar and "FP" number to track its progress. 

The young panther and its brother were initially rescued when they were five months old near the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.  The panthers' mother was found dead. The released cat, rescued in September 2011, was raised in the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee. 

The panther's rescue and eventual release back into the wild is a positive chapter in the long and storied struggle to maintain Florida's delicate population of this endangered species. Huffpost Miami on Friday published a slideshow of images detailing the release, as well its take on the panther population's current chances:

FWC details that panthers could lose 300,000 acres of roaming land by 2060, not helped by the fact that Gov. Rick Scott is bringing back a construction plan to build a highway corridor as well as scaling back on growth management laws that help wildlife. 

So far, five panther deaths have been confirmed in 2013. Three deaths -- including a four-month-old kitten discovered on Jan. 31 -- are attributed to vehicles. Two others -- including a 2-to-3-year-old male discovered on Feb. 1 -- are due to intraspecies fighting. 

Florida panther numbers are closely tracked and monitored. A current tally of new litters and confirmed deaths can be found at FWC's PantherNet. So far this year, the agency has reported one two-kitten litter born in Big Cypress National Preserve. 

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