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Summary of Florida Panther Mortalities
from July 2004 to June 2005

Florida PantherFlorida Panther 55 -The carcass of this approximately 11.5-year-old radio-collared female was recovered 12 July 2004, following detection of a mortality signal during a routine monitoring flight. The remains, which had been reduced to bones and hide by scavengers, were found in the Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP) between US41 and I-75. Necropsy was performed at the Wildlife Research Laboratory (WRL) in Gainesville, and cause of death was suspected to be due to intraspecific aggression (ISA) based on compressive fractures of the nasal bones. No congenital defects were observed although severe autolysis and scavenging precluded complete examination (a slight kink in the last vertebrae of the tail was noted at previous captures). Rabies IFA and FeLV ELISA antigen test were not possible due to severe autolysis.

Florida Panther 59 - The carcass of this approximately 9.5-year-old radio-collared male was recovered on 22 November 2004, from private land just west of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (FPNWR) in Collier county. Numerous punctures were observed on the face and cranium. Field sign included panther scrapes on the trail to FP59’s location. FP131 was known to be nearby and was possibly the aggressor. Necropsy was performed at the WRL, and cause of death was confirmed to be ISA. Congenital defects observed included a slightly kinked tail, a cowlick, and a cleft in the spleen. Brain tissue tested unsatisfactory for rabies by IFA and thoracic blood was negative for feline leukemia virus (FeLV).

Florida Panther 117 - The carcass of this approximately 2.5-year-old radio-collared male was recovered from private lands to the east of Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest (OKS) about one mile from a major road on 28 July 2004, following detection of a mortality signal during a routine flight. There were no signs of thrashing or obvious signs of trauma, although blood tinged fluid drained from the mouth and nose when turned over for examination. Blood collected post-mortem tested negative for FeLV.

Necropsy was performed at the University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine (UFCVM), and an immediate cause of death was not determined. Upon microscopic examination of tissues, mild perivascular lymphocytic inflammation (encephalomyelitis) was seen in the cerebrum, brainstem, and spinal cord suggesting viral infection. However, viral culture, PCR (canine distemper virus, pseudorabies virus, Flaviviruses, Alphaviruses, encephalomyocarditis virus, Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii, and Sarcocystis neurona), IHC (canine distemper virus), and rabies IFA of brain tissue were negative. PCR and IHC of brain tissue were also negative for FeLV. Toxicological tests performed at Michigan State University included gas chromatography (liver), heavy metal concentrations (kidney), anticoagulant screen (liver), and chlorinated pesticide concentrations (fat); all tests were negative or showed insignificant toxin levels. Congenital defects observed were limited to a small cleft in the spleen. The cause of death for FP117 remains open but was likely viral; the case is still under investigation.

Florida Panther 120 - FP120 was a 4-year-old radio-collared female (died at 5-years-of-age) that was injured in a collision with a vehicle on 11 July 2004, on US41 at the Turner River near Ochopee in the BCNP. The panther was transported to UF–CVM for treatment and then to White Oak Conservation Center for rehabilitation. Ten months following the accident, FP120 was released 6-7 miles north of US 41 and 4-5 miles east of SR 29 in Big Cypress National Preserve; BCNP biologists reported that she began moving south immediately after her release and was located within a half of mile north of US 41 on 6 May 2005. FP120 was struck and killed by a vehicle on US 41 near Turner River Road, Collier County, 7 May 2005, three days after her release. Vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death at necropsy. The stomach was empty except for unidentified small mammal hair and bones. Mild pleural adhesions were noted in the left thorax – possibly the result of the initial accident. Congenital defects were limited to a small cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and FeLV ELISA antigen tests were negative.

Florida Panther 126 - FP126 was a 1.5 year-old male panther that had been relocated to OKS due to its presence near the Green Corn Dance Ceremonial site. FP126 established a home range in and around OKS during the subsequent 7 months but was found dead 3 January 2005 on private land ˝ mile south of CR846 and 1.5 miles west of County Line Road following detection of a mortality signal. Field sign suggested ISA, and FP65 was located within ˝ mile the same day. Intraspecific aggression as the cause of death was confirmed at necropsy.

Congenital defects were limited to a small cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA was not performed due to severe autolysis; FeLV SNAP test of thoracic blood was negative.

Florida Panther 132 - FP132 was a 3 year-old radio-collared male that died 22 July 2004, due to septicemia likely secondary to FeLV infection. The panther’s movements had become restricted approximately 5 days prior to death. Necropsy revealed a large abscess over the right quadriceps muscle, interstitial pneumonia, and septicemia. Aerobic cultures were taken of the abscess and lungs resulting in heavy growth of â-hemolytic Streptococcus sp. FeLV SNAP test of serum and aqueous humor, and IFA of blood smears were positive. Immunohistochemistry of spleen and lymph node were positive for p27 antigen. ELISA antigen of serum at Antech Diagnostics was negative, but this is believed to be an erroneous result. Virus was cultured at OSU. FP132 was positive for FeLV by ELISA antigen (venous serum), IFA (blood smear), IHC, PCR, and viral culture. FP132 may have been infected by FP123
following ISA in March 2004. Congenital defects were limited to a cleft in the spleen. 

Florida Panther 136 - FP136 was a 4 year-old radio-collared female that was found dead due to unknown causes 14 June 2005, in the Turner River Unit of BCNP. The panther had originally been captured and radio-collared by the NPS on 13 January 2005. At capture, NPS personnel noted chronic healed injuries to the left shoulder and back (scapula and adjacent spinous processes).

FP136 had restricted movements since 25 May 2005, and had been in the same location for approximately 2 weeks before death. FP136 was emaciated but there were no obvious signs of trauma. The panther was collected by NPS within 2 hr of death and was delivered to the Wildlife Research Laboratory (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gainesville).

FP136 was subsequently transported to the UF-CVM for necropsy the next day (15 June). Whole body radiographs taken prior to necropsy revealed bullet fragments beneath the skin and in the musculature on the right side of the chest. Healed fractures were observed in the left scapula and spinous processes of the adjacent cervical vertebrae. A more recent fracture and dislocation of the spinal column was also observed lower in the back (2nd and 3rd lumbar vertebrae). Rounding of the fracture edges indicated the lumbar vertebral fractures to be approximately 2-3 weeks old. At necropsy, gross findings included emaciation, abrasions and ulcers on the hindlimbs, healed fractures of the left scapula and adjacent spinous processes, and acute fracture/luxation of the lumbar vertebrae. Copper-plated bullet fragments were recovered from the muscle and subcutaneous tissues of the thorax, primarily on the right side. No evidence of trauma (skin perforation, hemorrhage, muscle/tissue damage) associated with the bullet fragments was observed. Microscopically, chronic inflammation was observed in tissues around the bullet fragments.

Interestingly, evidence of degeneration (demyelination and vacuolation) was observed in the white matter of the mesocephalon of the brain. The causes of these and changes and their relationship to the panther’s condition are unknown but similar changes have been seen in at least one captive panther. Further examination of these tissues is being performed by veterinary pathologists at the University of California (Davis).

Bullet fragments recovered at necropsy were sent to the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory (Ashland, Oregon) for analysis. The fragments were examined macroscopically, microscopically, and by x-ray fluorescence spectrometry; however, rifling was not present and caliber could not be determined.

FP136 survived a shooting at some time prior to her initial capture. The bullet likely entered the left side and fragmented after hitting the dorsal aspect of the left scapula and cervical spinous processes.
These fragments continued into the subcutaneous tissues and muscle of the right side. The fragments apparently did not penetrate the thorax and are not believed to have resulted in serious injury. The lumbar vertebrae fracture likely occurred 3 weeks before death. The cause of this fracture is unknown. Congenital defects observed were limited to small cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and FeLV ELISA antigen tests were negative.

Florida Panther Kitten 94 - The carcass of this 3.25-year-old uncollared male was recovered from the median on I-75 near mile marker 98 beyond the panther fence wildlife crossing area on 17 August 2004. A transponder chip was found identifying it as K94, a kitten of FP88 that was last handled by NPS at 3 weeks of age in May 2001. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a double cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and a FeLV snap test were both negative.
 

Florida Panther Kitten 128 - The carcass of this 2.5-year-old uncollared male was recovered on 7 December 2004, from CR832 about 1 mile east of the old railroad grade. A transponder chip identified the carcass to be K128, a kitten of FP75 that was last handled when 10 days old in June 2000. Necropsy at the WRL confirmed vehicular collision as the cause of death. Congenital defects included a kinked tail, a cowlick, and a cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and a FeLV snap test were negative.

Florida Panther Kitten 156 - Big Cypress National Preserve biologists recovered the carcass of K156 from US41 east of Ochopee in Collier County on 2 August 2004. The female kitten was approximately 6 months of age and weighed 20 lbs. K156 was one of two kittens whose mother, FP120, was captured on 11 July 2004 for treatment following collision with a vehicle. Attempts to find her two
kittens were unsuccessful following her capture. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. The kitten was severely emaciated and would not likely have survived had it not been hit by car. Congenital defects observed were limited to a small cleft in the spleen. A FeLV snap test of thoracic blood was negative; rabies IFA was not performed due to severe skull/brain trauma.

Uncollared Florida Panther 67 - UCFP67 was a dependent 1-week-old female kitten of FP113 found dead 2 September 2004 in the FPNWR. No sign of a den or other kittens was seen. Necropsy was performed at WRL and abnormalities observed included dehydration, emaciation, enlarged kidneys, enlarged submandibular lymph nodes, and numerous small lacerations over the caudal portion of the body. There was no milk in the stomach. Cause of death was likely septicemia, dehydration, and malnutrition. No congenital defects were observed. A FeLV snap test of thoracic blood was negative. 

Uncollared Florida Panther 68 - This uncollared 3 to 6-year-old female Florida panther was found approximately 1 mile north of BCNP Oasis Visitor Center in a small pine island surrounded by swamp buggy trails on 30 September 2004.

It was estimated to have been dead up to 2 days. Based on matted vegetation, it is thought that the panther was alive and at the site for several days. There was no sign of thrashing or struggle, no sign of other panthers, and no sign of humans other than the exotic plant removal crew who found the carcass. A necropsy was performed at WRL and cause of death could not be determined; however, severe autolysis and scavenging precluded complete examination. No congenital defects were observed (spleen not available for examination). Whole body radiographs were negative for bullet fragments. An FeLV snap test of thoracic blood was negative.

Uncollared Florida Panther 69  - This uncollared approximately 2-year-old female was found dead 25 October 2004, on SR29 approximately 2.5 miles north of CR858. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Numerous tapeworms were found in the small intestine. Congenital defects observed included a kink in the tail, a cowlick, and a cleft in the spleen. A FeLV snap test of thoracic blood was negative. Brain was unsatisfactory for Rabies IFA.

Uncollared Florida Panther 70 - This uncollared approximately 1-year-old female was killed 1 December 2004, on SR29 at the curve by owl hammock radio tower about 5.5 miles south of Immokalee. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and FeLV SNAP test of venous blood were negative.

Uncollared Florida Panther 71 - This uncollared 2 to 3-year-old male was killed on US41 just east of 11-mile Road 11 February 2005. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and FeLV SNAP test of venous blood were negative.

Uncollared Florida Panther 72 - This uncollared approximately 2-year-old male panther was hit and killed 25 February 2005, on SR29 in Jerome. The moderately scavenged carcass was transported to WRL for necropsy, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a cowlick and a cleft in the spleen. A FeLV snap test was negative. Rabies IFA was not performed due to severe autolysis. FWC FLORIDA PANTHER ANNUAL REPORT 2004-2005

Uncollared Florida Panther 73 - This uncollared approximately 7-month-old male was killed 7 April 2005, on CR951 near Edison Community College. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a very small cleft in the spleen. A FeLV snap test of femoral blood was negative. Rabies IFA was not performed due to severe autolysis.

Uncollared Florida Panther 74 - This uncollared 3-year-old male was hit and killed on a bridge in the south bound lane of I-95 on the St. Johns-Flagler County line on 4 June 2005. UCFP74 was necropsied at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed were limited to a cleft in the spleen. Rabies IFA and a FeLV snap test of thoracic blood were negative.

Uncollared Florida Panther 75 - This uncollared 2 to 3-year-old male was killed 19 June 2005, on SR29 at the curve by owl hammock radio tower about 5.5 miles south of Immokalee. Necropsy was performed at WRL, and vehicular collision was confirmed as the cause of death. Congenital defects observed included a kinked tail, a cowlick, and a cleft in the spleen. A FeLV snap test of femoral blood was negative. Rabies IFA was unsatisfactory.

 

 
Related Links & Articles:
Injured Florida Panther Returned To Wild
Florida 2004-2005 Annual Florida Panther Report (pdf)

 
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