PUNTA GORDA, Fla. (AP) -- Wildlife officials say they've found evidence of a female Florida panther farther north than they have in decades.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission news release says the agency's panther team has collected strong evidence a female has finally crossed the Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida.
While males are commonly documented in the area, this is the first evidence of a wild female panther north of the river since 1973.
The release says biologists found female tracks in Charlotte County earlier this month. Panther team leader Darrell Land says they were able to rule out a male panther because by the time males are old enough to leave their mother, their paws are already bigger than females' paws.
Biologists also ruled out bobcats, as their tracks are much smaller, and no other large felines are native to Florida.