Spring is almost upon us and while most everyone in Florida is dreading the return of pollen and high humidity, we can’t help but be excited for the return of baby animals too! From coast to coast, Florida’s wildlife ranges from adorable baby deer to tiny turtle hatchlings, the still-kind-of-cute-but-also-terrifying baby alligators, and of course, fluffy baby panthers. Just last week, a mother panther and her cub were spotted by a river in South Florida.
Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spotted the mother and kitten just north of the Caloosahatchee River, speculating that the cub was about four or five months old.
The moment was a big milestone in panther history in Florida, suggesting that recovery of the species and expansion of breeding grounds might be in the cards. The actual video footage has not yet been released to the public.
According to The News-Press, males have often been spotted around the Caloosahatchee and Lake Okeechobee, but female sightings in that area have been a different story for decades. The last time evidence of a female panther was found in that area was in 2016. This new sighting has scientists and conservationists hopeful.
While this is a great next step for the species, the iconic Florida cat is still under threat from habitat loss, road kills, and disease.
At ZooTampa, conservation efforts come in the form of two adorable panther kittens, whose mother died from an unknown neurological disease that affects panthers and bobcats.
Cypress and Pepper are growing big and strong, and while unable to return to the wild, they provide valuable insight for scientists to study the species.
In the summer of 2019, the internet was captivated by rare footage of another mother panther and her two cubs spotted in the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest.
In this video, you can even see the mother carrying her baby in her mouth.
Expanding the breeding range of panthers to Central Florida is a big management goal for the FWS’s plan to help the species recover.