The Associated Press reports that a nearly frozen, one-week-old panther kitten was rescued from a wildlife refuge in southwest Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission noted in a news release that the kitten was rescued by biologists in mid-January.
FWC biologists and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida found the kitten while conducting research. The one-pound male kitten was suffering from hypothermia and was nonresponsive.
“We want to give any panther kitten the best opportunity to survive in the wild,” posited FWC veterinarian Dr. Mark Cunningham in a statement. “But clearly this kitten was in poor condition and almost certainly would have died without intervention.”
Biologists moved the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida, where veterinarians worked to save the adorable creature. Fortunately, his condition improved rapidly and he was eventually transported to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for rehabilitation.
Although the kitten survived his ordeal, his youth at the time of rescue means that he cannot be released into the wild because he never learned survival skills from his mother. The Lowry Park Zoo does not plan to place the kitten on public display, but he will eventually be moved to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where park visitors may observe him in his natural habitat.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, there are less than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild. They are located in southern Florida in swamplands like the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Due to their limited numbers, the species is threatened by nearly anything, including habitat loss, cars and feline diseases.