The Florida panther kitten rests two days after it was rescued. (Florida Fish and Wildlife photo)
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- An endangered Florida panther kitten rescued after an apparent vehicle strike in Southwest Florida will likely be unable to return to the wild.
Staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the kitten unresponsive on April 23 along State Road 82 in Collier County.
A volunteer with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge on his way to work spotted the injured kitten that morning and reported the sighting.
Rescuers immediately took the then 12-week-old male kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples for treatment. Although veterinarians at the hospital found no major fractures and no signs of significant internal damage, they believe the panther experienced some level of head trauma.
"Unfortunately, this kitten's condition makes it unlikely that he will recover enough to be released into the wild," said Dave Onorato, FWC biologist in a news release. "We're grateful to the staff at the Animal Specialty Hospital, who have worked tirelessly caring for him."
The kitten is being transferred to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo for further rehabilitation. This is the third kitten and seventh panther overall to receive rehabilitation at the zoo. The kitten's prognosis is guarded.
A male panther kitten, believed to be this kitten's brother, died April 7 from injuries also consistent with a vehicle strike.
Collisions with vehicles are the top human-related cause of panther deaths. More than a third of panther deaths documented last year were the result of vehicle strikes. Drivers are encouraged to slow down and drive carefully in rural areas where panthers are known to live. An estimated 100 to 160 adults of this federally endangered species live in the wild.
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.