The large cat that was struck and killed in Orange County two Sunday is ago is a Florida panther, according to the results of a necropsy performed Tuesday.
“There is no reason to believe the animal is anything but a Florida panther,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission veterinarian at the agency’s Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville. Genetic-testing results will provide a conclusive answer, but it takes several months to be completed.
Cunningham said the carcass appears to be that of a young male panther, approximately 3 years old. It has a cowlick, which is characteristic of a Florida panther, and there is no evidence that it was a captive animal. In addition, while the carcass was essentially decimated, the heart, which was not damaged, appears to be normal.
“A heart defect occasionally seen in Florida panthers was not seen in this panther. The stomach was the only other organ present, and it was empty,” said Cunningham.
An FWC biologist retrieved the badly damaged carcass shortly after it was struck by a double tractor trailer about 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec 11 near Christmas, in east Orange County.
The major human-related cause of panther deaths is vehicle strikes. This is the 25th panther to die this year in Florida, and the 17th this year killed by a vehicle. In 2011, nine of 24 documented Florida panther deaths were attributed to vehicle collisions.