Ralph Arwood Photography

FP-79 aka Don Juan

FP-79 was born to an introduced Texas cougar, TX-101, on the Seminole Indian Reservation in September of 1995. He was handled at the den on October 10, 1995 as K-19. He was first captured on March 3, 1999 at 3.5 years of age in the Turner River Unit, over 47 kilometers from his birth site.

He was monitored until his collar failed on October 4, 2003. He was re-captured on March 17, 2004. At 8.5 years of age, he weighed 147 lbs., was in excellent condition.

FP-79 was the dominant breeding male in The Big Cypress National Preserve, having bred at least 7 individual females who produced 32 kittens in 12 litters since 1998, based on field monitoring information. He may also have sired an additional 11 kittens in 5 litters.

On March 3, 2005, at 9.5 years of age, he weighed 134 lbs. He was in excellent condition, and surprisingly had no bite wounds or scars from intraspecific fights. He tested negative for feline leukemia.

His total home range size as an adult was 1599-km2 and encompassed almost half of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Beginning in January 2006, FP-79 was involved in a series of depredations in 2 small communities, Ochopee and Copeland, which eventually resulted in his removal from the wild. More specifically, on January 27, FP-79 attacked 2 domestic dogs at a residence on Turner River Road. Between February 7 and 9, he killed chickens, a housecat, and a turkey at a private residence and a private campground. He was captured using hounds on February 9. No apparent injuries or abnormalities were found and he weighed only 4 lbs. less than a year earlier. FP-79 was transported by ground to a remote area within his home range, 35 km from the capture site. It was hoped that this would alter his depredation behaviors.

He, however, returned to the campground in 2 days. Agency staff monitored FP-79 day and night and use modified aversive conditioning, i.e., sirens and air-horns when he was seen. He returned to the private residence and killed another chicken and a duck. The pens that housed the remaining fowl were surrounded with electric fencing, as a second aversive conditioning attempt on the part of the agencies. On February 13, he was observed touching the fence, jumping, and running off into the woods. Two days later, he was located in Copeland, a community in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in which a hog had been killed the previous night.

Because of FP-79’s repeated depredations, the failure of aversive conditioning to deter him, and the array of free-roaming pets and domestic livestock in Copeland, this panther was permanently removed from the wild on February 17, 2006. The subsequent biomedical assessment of this 10.5-year-old male did not reveal an obvious cause of his behavioral change. He was initially placed at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, where he is housed away from the public. He has adjusted well to captivity.

He was subsequently moved to the panther habitat at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park.  He quickly got used to the people on the boardwalk watching him.  He enjoyed stalking the Bobcats next door or an unlucky squirrel or bird in his habitat. 

Photographs at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park courtesy of Phyllis Konitshek.

On August 31, 2013, FP-79 was euthanized following a prolonged illness with an adrenal cancer.