THE TRACKING COLLAR OF 172 

 

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FP172 Photo Credit FWC

  

Radio Telemetry collars have helped biologists learn many things about the life of panthers here in south Florida. I have one of these collars that I use in my panther talks. The collar was worn by FP172. 

 

FP172 was a female panther who was captured in the Big Cypress National Preserve on November 9th 2009.  She was estimated at being about 5 years of age and weighed in at 68 & 1/2lbs. She was fitted with a radio collar so they could monitor her movements.You can see from her photo she was a young & pretty cat.

 

In 2010, FP172 set up a den. The panther team located her den site on the 20th of February. 172 may have left her kittens to scout out the area and find something to eat, growing kittens are demanding on a mother, so she must eat more to sustain herself and provide milk for her nursing kits (Their first few meals of milk are most important as they pass on antibodies from the mother to the kits to help them fight disease). These forays away from the den are what allowed the biologists to go in and find that in fact a new litter of panthers had arrived. They found 3 male kittens, tucked away in the under story of a dense patch of saw palmetto.

 

Panther babies are born blind & deaf, their ears begin to unfold and after about 10 days their eyes begin to open. The kits are not very mobile and spotted at birth, their fur more grey than tawny, darker to help them blend in with the earth they will crawl around on for the next few weeks, spots to allow them to hide among the mottled light that reaches through the protective fronds of their den.

 

Each collar has a frequency, and during the week biologists take to the sky to map the cats movements. On the 22 of March, 2010, the telemetry flight picked up FP172’s collar in “mortality” mode. On the ground, biologists found that she had been killed by a male panther. After an intensive search on foot and with remote cameras at the mortality site and the den, they found no sign of her 6 week old kittens, and so it was assumed that the babies had also perished. Cat fights are a natural occurrence, unfortunately sometimes they extract a high price, deaths that occur from such fights are known as (intraspecific aggression), these battles tend to be more common between males.

 

Sad is the tale of this once collared cat and her family, but it illustrates what can happen in the lives of panthers hacking it out in the palmetto thickets & cypress swamps of south Florida. The more real estate we humans use in and around panther habitat, the more pressure we force on their society. If their numbers continue to grow and we continue to pillage the wild land that remains, more panthers will fight and more panthers will die, essentially we will have been responsible, at least in part, for the deaths of these cats as well.

FP172 Den photo credit FWC
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For More Information..

Photo Credit FWC
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WORKUP ON FP 172

 

If you wish to learn more about the Radio Telemetry collars, how they work, and just how valuable they are in helping field biologists collect vital information about the cats. The link below will lead you to panther updates - “Field Stories” shared by those working directly with the wild Florida panther population.

 

 

LINK

http://www.fws.gov/floridapanther/pantherupdate.html

 

 

Radio Telemetry articles of interest at the site, listed by date.

I have added a brief description of the article.

 

Florida panther update: Aug 2011

Flying high with Aerial telemetry, location, location, location, pin pointing panthers.

 

FP update: Jan 2012

How panthers are monitored on the ground by checking “cluster sites”, via yep you guessed it, swamp buggy rides & a few pairs of wet boots.

 

FP update: Feb 2012

Improved technology (panthers can now phone home) & a good description of what is gained by radio collaring.

 

FP update: March 2012

The ABC’s of catch & collar.

 

 

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