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Endangered Florida Panther Sighting in Lake Wales

Pet Owners Encouraged to Keep Animals Indoors

APRIL 21 - A Florida panther, an endangered and protected species, has been seen in Lake Wales overnight and during the early morning hours of Friday, April 21. The big cat was seen by residents of Lake Wales Country Club.

According to reports and photos posted by the public, a second panther has been seen in an area near US 27 between Lake Wales and Frostproof. That cat is apparently a mother of kittens.

The males of the species tend to wander long distances in search of mates, and the sighting is not the first in the area. Although not their natural prey, panthers may be tempted to hunt a small pet they encounter outdoors.

A population of the animals is concentrated in southwest Florida, and a female with cubs was spotted north of the Caloosahatchee River about two years ago, the first such sighting in many decades.

The cats are very distinctive, larger than more common bobcats, and with long tails. Related to the cougar of western US states, the cats natural prey here includes wild hogs, deer, turkeys, and a variety of smaller animals.

Panthers are often killed by vehicles as they attempt to cross roads, and the population has endured heavy losses from such strikes in recent years.


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