COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Biologists have reunited an endangered Florida panther kitten with her mother.
The 4-month-old baby panther was found alone this past March in Collier County. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says biologists combed through the area for any signs of the mom, known as a dam, but found none.
So, the kitten was brought to the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens for a medical evaluation. But, researchers refused to give up hope.
"FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists used towels with the kitten’s scent to mark along nearby trails in hope of attracting the dam to the area to reunite her with her offspring," the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute wrote on Facebook.
Biologists then put the kitten in a cage in front of a livestreaming camera, while they waited nearby to open it if the mother came.
When she didn't, experts decided to bring the kitten to White Oak Conservation in Yulee.
"Sure enough, the next night, trail camera footage showed a panther walking by the kitten release site," FWC explained. "Tracks confirmed it was an adult female, so the kitten was transported back to Naples."
The kitten was put back in the cage and monitored again with the hope the mom would return. Again, no luck.
But, the biologists were persistent.
"Naples Zoo cared for the kitten during the day, plans were made for a third attempt to reunite the pair," FWC wrote. "That evening, a female panther approached and immediately showed maternal behavior toward the kitten."
Realizing they'd found the mom, the biologists released the kitten and reunited the two.
The kitten was fitted with a temporary radio collar, so the young animal could be monitored. That collar will soon drop off.
Going forward, biologists hope to keep monitoring the mother and baby with trail cameras. One camera recently showed the pair together a month after their reunion, and everything appears to be going well.