florida panther released

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hope for a species

A 2-year-old Florida panther bounds off into the brush with a tracking collar attached to his neck after being released into the wild on April 3 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in West Palm Beach.

The panther and his sister, who was released into the wild last month, were raised at the White Oak Conservation Center since they were 5 months old. The FWC rescued the two panthers as kittens in September 2011 after their mother was found dead in northern Collier County.

Hailing from the swamps and forests of southern Florida, this endangered subspecies of cougar currently occupies a paltry 5 percent of its historic home range. To allow biologists to observe the panthers' preferred habitats, home range size, birth rates and causes of death, individuals are routinely caught and equipped with tracking collars.

There are currently between 100 and 160 Florida panthers living in the wild today according to a 2011 study. This is actually a noteworthy improvement compared to their population numbers in the 1970s, when it was estimated that only 20 individuals existed in the wild.

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florida panther released

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Big cat peaces out

The 2-year-old panther, who has grown to a healthy, suitable size in preparation for living the wild, ventures outside his wooden transport box after being released.

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