One of the last panthers from restoration project dies

Posted at 9:01 AM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 09:01:00-05

NAPLES, Fla. - One of the last remaining offspring of a project credited with saving the Florida panther from extinction has been found dead.

The remains of the 17-year-old female panther were recently found in Big Cypress National Preserve. Wildlife officials say it lived a remarkably long life. It's unclear how the panther died.

The panther was among the first generation of cats born to female cougars brought to Florida to restore the state's population in the 1990s.

Wildlife officials say the first generation experienced the biggest benefits from the genetic restoration experiment, which repaired health effects from years of inbreeding.

The Naples Daily News reports roughly three dozen big cat deaths have been recorded this year, with about two dozen of those being road kills, which ties a state record.

Biologists estimate there are 100 to 180 in the wild.