Pembroke Pines family captures video of possible Florida panther exploring backyard

Surveillance video shows the glowing eyes of a four-legged animal that is too big to be a domestic cat and was recently on the prowl in Pembroke Pines. It left behind a paw print that was several inches wide.

Argenis Fernandez said the surveillance camera was recording his backyard when it captured the cougar moving around. He used the proportions of the video to estimate it was 3 to 4 feet long.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, mature male Florida panthers grow to be nearly 7-foot long from tail to nose and females grow about 6-foot long. Florida panther kittens are gray with dark brown or blackish spots and bands around the tail.

“You see the length of the tail and the shape of the tail, that’s when I said, ‘Wow!’ It could be a Florida panther,” Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said.

The Fernandez family are convinced it was a Florida panther, which the U.S. Department of the Interior listed as an endangered subspecies in 1967. Experts believed there were fewer than 30 in Florida in the 1990s. Argenis Fernandez said he hopes it is a sign that the recovery efforts are increasing the population.

Florida’s recovery goal is to achieve viability of the Florida panther to a point where it can be reclassified from endangered to threatened.

“I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s a rare and beautiful sighting even though I didn’t get to actually see it in person. I think it’s wonderful for the state of Florida,” Argenis Fernandez said.

The Fernandez family lives away from a canal that is east of the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area. Florida panthers are rarely seen in urban areas and usually hunt small mammals such as raccoons in remote areas.

“These animals really have a fear of people,” Magill said. “The reason why we don’t see them often is because they are very shy and they avoid us.”

For more information about how to report a Florida panther sighting, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922.

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