Florida panthers are incredibly shy creatures, and don't even like being around humans — which is what makes Tina Dorschel's chance encounter with one at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary so astonishing.
During an early morning stroll on the preserve's sprawling boardwalk, the Wisconsin native happened to be recording the gorgeous treescape when a young male panther prowled around the corner, minding his own business. Suddenly, they saw each other, and things got tense.
Warning: Due to the nature of close-up encounters with giant cats, this video contains some brief, coarse language.
On on early morning nature walk we saw a gator, a snake, frogs, pretty birds, and had this unexpected encounter. (Warning…curse word at end!)(For licensing or usage, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
Posted by Tina Dorschel on Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Thankfully, Dorschel did just the right thing: She stood straight up, made some noise, and didn't turn her back. The panther made the right move, too, by getting out as quickly as possible.
While Florida's panthers are making progress on their long road to recovery (populations have gone up substantially since their statewide listing as endangered in 1973) this and other encounters may actually be a bad sign for the subspecies. An increase in unintentional encounters with humans suggests their habitat is shrinking too fast to keep up with their recovery.
Besides fragmentation and loss of habitat, Florida panthers are also vulnerable to encounters with humans — more specifically, with their vehicles. In 2015, Florida saw a record number of panther mortalities, most of which were the result of automobile collisions.
So next time you're driving in Southern Florida, drive the speed limit (or slower than), and keep an eye out for these beautiful cats!Whizzco