By some counts, there are less than 200 mountain lions, or panthers as some call them, living in Florida. Despite this, it seems they are being sighted more and more. Recently, a video surfaced on Facebook where a woman in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary ran right into a cougar. Now, a man from East Fort Myers posted a picture of one of these rare cats on his porch. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s research institute uploaded the image to its social media on Tuesday.
“It’s not every day you look out the window to see a Florida panther sitting on your porch!” the FWC page wrote.
The picture was taken by Phil Hendra, who was staying at his father’s house just south of the Orange River. Hendra told officials that the cat came to the house on March 18 and laid on the porch, dozing off despite the presence of humans. This is odd behavior, especially since mountain lions generally try their best to avoid people.
“It stayed for about 20 minutes and laid down for a bit,” Hendra recalled. “It looked at us inside the window then slowly walked away and we have not seen it since. My parents have lived here since 1988 and they may have seen a younger panther about two years ago, but nothing compares to this once in a lifetime experience.”
Florida panthers are rare, but just how rare is still up to debate. There is some disagreement between experts and conservationists on how many cougars are in the state, and the management of the species has been mired in controversy for quite some time. Its taxonomic status, such whether if it really is a distinct subspecies of cougar, is also unresolved. The FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute notes that there is a lot of misinformation regarding the species, and that sightings should be reported to the FWC.
Currently panther research and management is funded in a large part by the sale of panther license plates.