IMMOKALEE, Fla. (FOX 13) - Helping one endangered panther required a team effort after it ended up outside of a refuge.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials released body camera video from one of its officers. On March 28, FWC received a call from highway workers who reported spotted the panther on State Road 29 just north of Interstate 75.
The panther was trapped on the wrong side of the highway fence, meaning it was on the road side of the fence rather than the inside the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
The FWC officer halted traffic and, with the help of a biologist and a good Samaritan, they slowly encouraged the panther to re-enter the refuse through an open gate. It was a slow process. They tried to make noise to convince it to run through the gate, but the panther ended up sitting down.
They eventually used a truck to slowly herd the wild cat to safety, and it raced back into the refuge.
“The fence is designed to separate panthers from traffic and to guide the big cats to wildlife crossings where they may safely cross beneath the highway,” according to a statement from FWC. “In this case, the panther found a spot where it entered the highway side of the fencing. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma did significant damage to the fencing that is currently being repaired.”
It’s not absolutely clear where the panther got through the fence, however, an opening was located where it may have snuck through. The hole was repaired by Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
FWC explained the panther was most likely more nervous than the humans involved in the mission. The process was slow because the officer didn’t want the panther to panic and run past the gate.
The agency asks that anyone who sees an injured or dead panther to contact the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or email Tip@MyFWC.com.