Rehabilitated panther released back into wild by Florida Fish and Wildlife

LABELLE, Fla. (AP) — Wildlife officials on Monday finally released an endangered Florida panther that was rehabilitated after a car crash.

The panther was released in southeastern Hendry County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported. Two scheduled releases last week had to be postponed after the young female panther eluded capture inside her 5-acre pen at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee.

"We are pleased that we have been able to successfully rescue, rehabilitate and release this panther back into the wild," FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron said in a news release. "We believe this panther has a good chance of contributing to progress we are making in the recovery of this population."

The panther was rescued as a kitten last May in Collier County. Rescuers took her to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida, where she received surgery for injuries that included a broken leg, rib fractures and bruising around her lungs.

"We are grateful to our partners that helped make the rescue and rehabilitation of this panther possible," FWC panther team leader Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader said. "Our thanks go to White Oak, Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida, the Collier County Sheriff's Office, the Golden Gate Animal Clinic, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."

The panther is an endangered species, and it's rare for wildlife officials to treat them in captivity. Only around 160 panthers are believed to roam southern Florida.

To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

For more information on Florida panthers go to FloridaPantherNet.org .

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