2014 Zone 4 Closure
Beginning at 12:01 am Monday, April 7, 2013, the Zone 4 airboat access within Big Cypress National Preserve will be closed due to low water conditions. More »
Turner River Closure
Turner River is closed due to low water conditions. It is advised that visitors consider paddling Halfway Creek as an alternative. More »
Beginning January 27, through August 28, Burns Lake Campground will be closed to camping. It will still be accessible for day use and backcountry access, however. More »
Interstate 75 Mile Marker 63 Closure
Beginning summer of 2013, the rest area and backcountry access at Mile Marker 63 will be closed due to construction. More »
Encouraging News for Florida panthers
Contact: Gabriella Ferraro, FWC, 772-215-9459
Contact: Patricia Behnke, FWC, 850-251-2130
Contact: Bob DeGross, NPS, 239-695-1107
GWith spring in full bloom, some positive signs have emerged about Florida’s endangered panther. Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP) have been busy documenting active Florida panther dens filled with kittens.
A total of four dens, with three kittens apiece, have been documented so far in 2010. These particular dens were found in palmetto thickets in Picayune Strand State Forest and BCNP in Collier County. The births are significant because they offset panther deaths and hopefully mean the population will continue to grow. The panthers' numbers declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s, but research and monitoring by FWC biologists have helped in restoring the genetic health and vigor of the panther population.
Florida panthers breed throughout the year, but peak activity occurs in the spring. Biologists attempt to visit the dens when the kittens are approximately 2 weeks old. At that time, litter size and composition are noted, samples (skin, hair, blood, fecal) are taken for genetic testing and health screening, transponders are inserted for identification purposes. This information helps biologists learn about the genetic structure of the population. Also oral deworming medication is administered to help give the kittens a healthy start.
The kittens stay in the den for about two months, after which they begin following their mother to kills and begin the weaning process. Kittens stay with their mother for about 14 months. Females set up a home range near or overlapping their mother’s home range. Males disperse away from their natal range, sometimes covering hundreds of miles before settling into their own home range.
“It’s quite rewarding when we can follow Florida panthers throughout their lives,” said FWC panther biologist Mark Lotz. “Active dens are tangible evidence that the Florida panther is reproducing. We learn so much about panthers when we track them from birth through adulthood.”
To report dead or injured panthers call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
Did You Know?
There are few "big cypress" in Big Cypress National Preserve. The name actually refers to the great expanse of cypress forest, hundreds of thousands of acres, within the Big Cypress Swamp.