Ralph Arwood Photography


On February 10, 2008, we collared female FP-161. Her transponder confirmed that she was K-169, born on May 25, 2004 to FP-70 in a den only 1 km from this capture site. FP-161 was in excellent condition, weighing 86 lbs.

FP-161’s Positive Pregnancy Test  January 31, 2009

As told by Deborah Jansen

The BCNP protocol for handling panthers with working collars is to dart them after the hounds are restrained (leashed to nearby trees). Then, if the panther should jump from its tree in response to the stinging dart, we can let it run off without being chased and treed again. This was the scenario during FP161’s re-collaring on January 31, 2009.


After she jumped and ran, we waited a few minutes, and then searched for her using telemetry gear. We found her asleep on the ground in a cool, dry mixed hardwood swamp. We believe this technique is easier on the panther than having it drop into a net, especially if a female is pregnant.

As part of the routine physical exam, the team veterinarian palpates a panther’s abdomen to check the organs. Although FP-161 was not obviously pregnant when seen in the tree, National Park Service veterinarian Kevin Castle felt one, possibly two kittens and estimated that their mom was in her third trimester. The high progesterone level and positive relaxin (diagnostic of fetal implantation) from her blood work also indicated pregnancy.

Kevin Castle, DVM with FP-161

These assessments were confirmed when FP-161 settled in to one location about ten days after capture. On February 25, 2009 we found three kittens at her den: two males and one female. They are now logged in as K-277, K-278, and K-279.

K-277, K-278, and K-279

Our monitoring has shown that FP-161 continued visiting the den until March 28, 2009 when the kittens were six weeks old.

FP-161 with K-277, K-278, and K-279 at their den.

FP-161 with K-277, K-278, and K-279 at their den.

“What Just Happened to Me???”

FP-161 waking up from anesthesia.

During a panther capture, a “workup” includes (but is not limited to) the collar, vaccines, blood and tissue samples, ear tattoos, transponder chip, and an overall health evaluation. When finished with the workup, the team packs all the gear and moves it away from the site. While the sedated panther begins to recover, everyone heads back to the swamp buggy except the veterinarian and team leader who linger behind, watching from a distance until they are sure the panther is recovering safely. Panthers are basically timid and possess a keen sense of hearing. They will try to escape from any unusual sound such as the snap of a twig or human voice,

As a volunteer for Big Cypress National Preserve, one of my favorite activities, second only to photographing panthers, is aerial photography from the helicopter. Twice a year, in May and August, Deborah Jansen and her staff survey the deer population in seven predominantly prairie areas of the Preserve. They are determining the fawn-to-doe and buck-to- doe ratios as well as examining long-term trends in the population due to environmental conditions and land management actions. The survey is done by flying transects beginning at sunrise. The early morning flights are wonderful for landscape photography. The low sun angle and the bits of morning fog give mystery and depth to the photographs.

As we were surveying deer in the Deep Lake Unit on August 3, 2009 pilot Lee Jonas and biologist Annette Johnson were conducting the routine panther tracking flight from a Cessna 172 several miles to the south. As they followed the signal from FP-161’s radio collar, they saw her and two of her six- month-old kittens walking across an open, wet prairie. We had last seen three kittens, 2 males and 1 female, at their den in February when they were two weeks old. With the family just south of our deer survey area, we headed that way to observe and photograph them.


FP-161 with two kittens

Data on the survival of panther kittens is very limited. While almost all kittens born to collared female panthers are marked at the den, we only know which ones survived to adulthood if they are examined at some future date and a transponder is found. A random sighting or photograph of a panther family may tell us how many, but not who, survived. This rare opportunity to see them out in the open along with the advances in photographic equipment let us know that one of the male kittens (K-277 or K-278) and the female kitten, K-279, survived and appear to be healthy at six months. How do we know the female survived? She raised her tail as she ran from the helicopter and the camera lens.

K-279 two weeks old.

K-279 six months old.

Kitten K-279 was collared on March 1, 2010 at one year of age as FP182. One of her male siblings was documented with FP161 and FP182 on March 22, 2010. In May 2010, FP161 denned again and on May 26, 2010 we handled 2 females and 1 male, K 300-302.

K-300 and K-301 in their den.


FP-161 caring for her kittens.


FP-161 moving her kittens

Below is a time-lapse video of FP-161 and her kittens at their den.  Twenty-four hours is compressed into five minutes.

She had been observed on several occasions with 3 juveniles, the last date of which was June 6, 2010, showing us that she had successfully raised them to at least 13 months of age.

In April 2012 she denned and we marked 4 kittens.

K-357,K-358, K-359 and K-360

FP-161 denned again in November, indicating that the kittens from the April den had died. We marked a male and a female at her November den.

K-357,K-358, K-359 and K-360

FP-161 denned again in November, indicating that the kittens from the April den had died. We marked a male and a female at her November den.

K-383 and K-384

On April 16, 2013 one of John Kellam’s trail cameras photographed FP-161 with one kitten.

FP-161 and one kitten by John Kellam

On February 16, 2014 we changed FP-161’s collar She weight 90 lbs. was in great body condition with good muscling and adequate fat stores. Unfortunately her new collar stoped working on May 8, 2014.