In a surprising turn of events, a rare sighting of a panther has been caught on a trail camera in South Central Florida. The Florida panther was on the brink of extinction in the 1970s, with only a few dozen remaining in the wild. However, thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have increased to approximately 200, with most of them inhabiting state parks near the Everglades.
To come across a panther in the Florida Heartland, only an hour’s drive from Tampa, is exceedingly uncommon. But local hunter Justin Ainslie managed to capture a majestic panther on his trail camera at Duette Preserve.
During his last deer hunt, just before Ainslie was about to leave his stand, the panther sauntered by. Ainslie shares, “He was out there when I was hunting. I’ve never seen one, but it’s pretty cool to know that it’s around.” Park ranger Jerry Miller confirms that the images provide undeniable evidence of a healthy and thriving panther in the 20,000-acre reserve.
Miller explains that historically, the Florida panther inhabited the entire southeastern United States, but by the 1970s and 1980s, their numbers dropped to around 10, mainly in the Everglades. Since then, conservation efforts have allowed them to expand their range a bit to the north. The fact that the trail camera captured continuous video footage of the panther walking through is particularly unique and rare.
Two years ago, Miller himself managed to capture some unsteady footage of a panther on the outskirts of Duette Reserve in Manatee County. He emphasizes the need for green spaces, such as the 22,000-acre Duette Preserve, as well as ranch and conservation lands, for the preservation and coexistence of panthers.
As rural areas continue to experience development, panthers are often killed by vehicles on roadways. Miller notes that these creatures simply want to peacefully thrive and move through their swamps without causing any disturbances.
The increasing prevalence of trail cameras has led to a greater number of confirmed sightings of elusive predators. PetaPixel recently reported on extremely rare footage taken by a trail camera in Michigan, depicting a mountain lion hunting down a deer. With advancements in technology and the widespread use of trail cameras, it is becoming easier to document and verify the existence of these elusive animals.