Florida Wildlife Officials Concerned Over ‘Startling Behavior’ Displayed by Panthers, Bobcats

   08.22.19

Several panthers and bobcats in Florida have been observed stumbling and having difficulty using their hind legs, and it’s caught the attention of wildlife officials. Some believe the animals developed a mysterious disorder, while others say the startling behavior is a result of being poisoned. So, which is it?

“All the affected animals have exhibited some degree of walking abnormally or difficulty coordinating their back legs,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said in a statement earlier this week.

Just this month, (August 2019) the FWC has confirmed neurological damage in one panther and one bobcat. They also collected additional trail cam footage showing eight panthers (mostly kittens) and one adult bobcat struggling with similar side effects and displaying varying degrees of severity. It appears to affect kittens the most.

Cats showing the behavior have been caught on video in multiple locations, including Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties, and at least one panther was photographed in Charlotte County could also have been affected.

“While the number of animals exhibiting these symptoms is relatively few, we are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue.” said Gil McRae, director of the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “Numerous diseases and possible causes have been ruled out; a definitive cause has not yet been determined.”

The FWC continues to test for various potential toxins, including neurotoxic rodenticide (rat pesticide), as well as infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies.

The agency has also asked local residents to check their own trail cams or other personal surveillance footage, and share any evidence of a potentially affected cat with wildlife officials to further analyze and confirm the condition.

Florida panthers are an endangered species native to the state, so without a definitive cause of this mysterious disorder, concern is certainly warranted.

To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

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