Ralph Arwood Photography
On February 10, 2007 we collared FP-151 in the Turner River Unit. Her transponder confirmed that she was the daughter (K-113) of FP-93 and FP-79, born in April of 2002. She weighed 3 lbs. at 18 days of age. At almost five years of age and weighing ninety pounds, she proved to have a very high tolerance to our anesthetic drugs.
In April of 2007 she denned, and on April 21, 2007 we marked 3 kittens.
K 241, 242, 243
They evidently did not survive because in August of 2007 she denned again. Like most cats, female panthers can go back into estrus when they are no longer caring for kittens or juveniles.
We went to mark the kittens on August 27, 2007 and found the remains of a male and a kitten of unknown sex. The kittens had been killed within the past few hours and partially eaten. Fresh bear scat found within 5 meters of the den suggested that a bear had killed them.
FP-151 denned again in late February 2008. We marked 2 kittens, 1 male and 1 female, on March 4, 2008.
K-264 (female) and K-265 (male). At 21 days of age she weighed four pounds one ounce and he weighed four pounds.
FP151’s collar failed on June 7, 2008.
On October 28, 2010 houndsman Roy McBride was out exercising his dogs when they treed FP-151, giving us the chance to replace her failed radio collar.
Deborah Jansen and Roy McBride with FP-151, 30 years after they collared FP-1.
FP-151 denned again in June 2011. At over 729,000 acres, Big Cypress National Preserve is a vast expanse with many difficult areas to access. FP151’s den, discovered on June 10, 2011 was situated in one of those remote places. FP-151 has always been a powerful and independent cat. So it was no surprise that her den would be a challenge to get to.
The red dot is the den location.
Fortunately, when it was time for the Big Cypress panther research team to visit the den and mark the new kittens, the National Park Service helicopter was available to take us to the den. This assured that we would arrive before FP-151 returned from her search for prey. Plus we were spared a long and bumpy buggy ride to the site. Turned out that was the only hardship we were spared. At my assigned starting point I was facing an eight-foot high wall of palmettos, tightly packed with thorny smilax vines and hog plum. FP-151 sure had picked a good place for her den. It was impossible to walk through this terrain. The only way in was to crawl on hands and knees, hoping that I could find the small passageways that mom used to creep through to her den. As the palmetto leaves crunched around me, I couldn’t help but wonder if that clatter didn’t function as an “alarm” against intruders for this panther family. During the search we found something interesting: a flattened area that FP-151 had probably spent some time at but there were no kittens. This was likely a place where she could rest near, but not with, her kittens. Finally I came upon a less dense area and, following this slightly easier line of travel, arrived at FP-151’s den. It was a cool and shadowy cave under the foliage, shaped like an “L”. At the bend of the “L” was an outcropping of limestone rock. And there, partially hidden under the ledge, was a panther kitten! Nearby was the second kitten, sleeping between two palmetto trunks.
K-340 and K-341
FP151’s den was typical of most dens in South Florida in that it was located in a drier, upland area, within very dense palmetto vegetation. It was atypical in that it featured a rocky section for the kitten to hide in. While pumas living in mountainous terrain out west usually locate dens in a shallow nook on the face of a cliff or rock outcrop, Florida panthers do not normally enjoy that option. It seemed fitting that FP-151’s kitten, descendant’s of a Texas cougar, would naturally take advantage of this rocky cover.
After evaluating the kittens we returned them to their den with trail cameras to document life at the den. FP-151 returned to her den midday on June 11, 2011.
FP-151, K-340 and K-341
In the morning of June 12, 2011 FP-151 returned to move her kittens to a new near by den.
FP-151 moves her den.
FP-151 next denned in December 2012. We handled two female kittens, K-385 and K-386 on January 2, 2013.
K-385 and K-386
FP-151, K-385 and K-386
FP-151 was re-collared on February 22, 2014. She weighed 77 lbs. and was in good health. She was probably still with K-385 and K-386 at this time. She was fitted with an ATS Iridium LITE/GPS collar. With this collar we are able to get multiple locations each day that are downloaded to us via satellite link.
FP-151 with Big Cypress capture team.
01-18-2015 FP-151 was re-captured to replace her ATS Iridium LITE/GPS collar. While these collars give us great information their battey life is only about one year. The satellite component worked for 6 months and VHF worked 10 months longer. No longer caring for dependent kittens, her weight was back up to 91 lbs. and she remained in good health.