The Phoenix Flyer

Florida’s wild cats are showing strange symptoms, state says, and asks for public’s help

By: - August 20, 2019 11:04 am

Florida panther. Wikimedia Commons; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A video of an endangered Florida panther trying to get up and follow two others is heartbreaking  – the panther’s back legs simply buckle out from underneath the cat.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) suspects neurological damage, and researchers have confirmed it in one panther and one  bobcat. Trail cameras – which are placed to catch footage of animals in the wild – “captured eight panthers (mostly kittens) and one adult bobcat displaying varying degrees of this condition.”

So far, the problem has only been documented in southwest Florida, in Collier, Lee and Sarasota, and Charlotte counties, and Charlotte County. The agency announced it is testing for various potential toxins, including rat pesticides, as well as infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies.

“While the number of animals exhibiting these symptoms is relatively few, we are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue,” Gil McRae, director of the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said in a news release. “Numerous diseases and possible causes have been ruled out; a definitive cause has not yet been determined. We’re working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a wide array of experts from around the world to determine what is causing this condition.”

The FWC is asking people to submit trail camera footage or other videos if they capture footage showing panthers or bobcats trouble walking. Files less than 10MB can be uploaded to our panther sighting webpage at If you have larger files, please contact the FWC at [email protected].

To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.