TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A team of wildlife biologists, veterinarians and police has saved the life of a seriously injured Florida panther kitten.
A homeowner in Collier County spotted the nine-month-old female panther dragging its rear leg and called police earlier this week.
Wildlife biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission responded to the situation, helped sedate the animal and brought it to an animal hospital.
X-rays showed the panther had a compound fracture of its rear leg and other injuries, probably from a collision with a car. Veterinarians inserted a steel plate to repair the bone.
The panther has been transported to the White Oak Conservation Center near Jacksonville because the facility has a long history of rehabilitating injured panthers.
Diane Hirth of the FWC said the panther is eating and resting comfortably and its outlook is good.
"It's probably had some experience catching prey and is expected to do well and expected to be released back into the wild in maybe four to six months."
The first week of the panther's recovery is critical, so the animal is under close observation at the White Oak Conservation Center.
Authorities are praising the Collier County homeowner who noticed a problem and took action to help. Hirth said that decision allowed FWC to help save the kitten's life.
"That's what our panther team can do. They can respond to these kinds of situations and rescue a panther. There are only 100 to 160 Florida panthers. They're still an endangered species in Florida but their population has increased."
The Conservation Commission encourages drivers to slow down in areas where panthers live, particularly at dusk and dawn.
You can report injured panthers by calling Florida's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or dial *FWC.
You can also support rescue efforts like this by purchasing a panther specialty license plate. The fees from the plate help pay for Florida's panther research and management efforts.