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.
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.