NAPLES — One of two Florida panthers killed in the past three days along U.S. 41 near state parks was the mother of two month-old cubs that are now astray and being sought by Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.
FP158, a 5-year-old panther, was found about a half mile east of SR92 (San Marco Rd) after a 7:30 a.m. collision Saturday.
The carcass is currently stored at the Naples Office and will be transported for necropsy later, after which the remains will be archived at the Florida Museum of Natural History, said biologist Mark Lotz.
"FP158 was known to have two kittens estimated to be about 4 weeks old on May 2," Lotz said. "The status or whereabouts of those kittens is unknown at this time, however FP158’s last several locations are currently being searched."
FP158 apparently leapt in the path of a vehicle traveling toward Naples opposite Collier-Seminole State Park near the Iron Rhino Saloon.
“It was struck by the vehicle, but managed to get off into the bushes,” said Lt. Josh Caraker of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission division of law enforcement.
The driver of the vehicle, described as a “good Samaritan” by Caraker, turned around after the hit and then contacted the state wildlife agency.
“I arrived at the scene, called a biologist and located the panther,” Caraker said. He said there were no serious external injuries visible.
On Friday, another Florida panther was found dead along U.S. 41 East in Big Cypress National Preserve, also likely after a collision with a vehicle, a preserve biologist said.
It was found Friday, north of the highway about a mile west of Monroe Station.
The cat, a male aged about 4 years, weighed about 120 pounds. It had broken or missing teeth, its fur was scraped along the pavement and its collar had been torn off — all indications of being hit by a vehicle, wildlife biologist Deb Jansen said.
Scientists say between 100 and 120 panthers are left in the wild, many in Southwest Florida, where a growing population is running out of room.
So far this year, six panthers had been killed in collisions with vehicles in Southwest Florida out of a total of nine panthers found dead, according to state figures.