Ralph Arwood Photography


This family was first reported in September of 2003 as a group of 4 panthers, 3 of which were reported as smaller, on Loop Road near Pinecrest. This community in eastern Big Cypress consists of approximately a dozen private residences and weekend retreats. For the next 4 months, Big Cypress staff received occasional reports of sightings of both individual panthers and a female with 2 kittens in the Pinecrest area. Since some of these reports included evidence of habituated behavior on the part of these panthers, they were the focus of capture work when the Big Cypress team convened in early February 2004.

On February 13, 2004, 3 panthers were treed at 1 location in Pinecrest. The adult female, FP-124, weighted 70 lbs. and was estimated to be 3 to 4 years old. One of the 2 kittens, FP-125, was a male also weighing 70 lbs.  The other kitten, FP-126, also a male, weighed 60 lbs. Both kittens were re-treed on March 22, 2004 and given a booster for feline leukemia via the dart gun. The family inhabited a 199-km2 home range in the Loop and Stairsteps Units. At times FP-124 was with the kittens; at other times she left 1 or both behind.

The kittens were estimated to be 10 months old when captured on February 13, 2004. This aging was based on their size and weights (60 and 70 lbs), and by tooth eruption and wear examined by the houndsman. Photos of the family group taken since September 2003 also supported the 10-month-old age estimate.

FP-125 was last with his mother on June 22, 2004 and began dispersal movements on July 6, 2004.

This “Pinecrest panther family” has become the center of concern by some Pinecrest residents and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, who believe that the panthers are a threat to their family members and to the children who attend programs at the Everglades National Park Environmental Education Center on Loop Road. As a result, FP-126 was removed from Big Cypress on May 28, 2004 and relocated to Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. FP-125 dispersed naturally into Everglades National Park,

at which time Park staff took over monitoring. He was last located on September 24, 2004 in the eastern Everglades adjacent to Krome Avenue, a heavily traveled road on the western edge of Miami. During the next monitoring flight on September 27, 2004 his collar emitted the mortality signal. On September 28, 2004 his collar was retrieved on the east side of Krome Avenue. The “break-away” leather piece, used as a safety device should the collar malfunction, had separated and the collar was misshapen, likely due to an impact with a vehicle. The status of FP-125 as of this writing is unknown, however, given the extent of distortion of the collar, it is unlikely that he survived the impact.

FP-124 next denned in the Stairsteps Unit and, on September 29, 2004, we marked 1 male kitten, K-174. He survived to only 3 to 4 weeks of age. FP-124 denned again in February 2005 in the Stairsteps Unit. On February 10, 2005, we marked 3 kittens, K-175, K-176 and K-177, 2 males and 1 female. Subsequent sightings up to December 26, 2005 indicated that she successfully raised 2 of the 3 kittens to 11 months of age. She was seen with 1 juvenile during the April 19, 2006 routine monitoring flight.

FP-124 was re-collared on February 17, 2007 and two 9-day-old male kittens, K-224 and K-225, were found and marked at the site.

K-224 and K-225

On February 27, 2008, FP-124 was re-collared. One of her 2 male offspring was also treed but not collared. Several observations of FP-124 with 1 offspring were made during routine fixed-wing flights during 2008. FP-124’s collar failed prematurely on August 25, 2008. One unconfirmed sighting of her in Pinecrest was reported after her collar failed.