Meet Micanopy – an endangered two-year-old, Florida panther that now calls the Zoo home.
Micanopy is no longer considered viable for release to the wild due to its behavior. He was captured and removed twice from nearby residential areas because he was preying upon pets – putting himself, the public and their pets at risk. Officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first captured Micanopy on April 12, 2016, following 2-3 weeks of run-ins with residents in a neighborhood near Immokalee in Collier County.
“Although this panther never displayed aggressive behavior towards humans, the pattern of behavior was concerning enough that we decided to remove it as a proactive response to the risks posed to residents,” said David Shindle, USFWS Florida Panther Coordinator.
The panther likely used exotic vegetation adjacent to houses in the area to hide out and stalk prey. Wildlife officials have since worked with Collier County Housing to remove this vegetation and decrease the likelihood of other panthers or bears lingering too close to residential neighborhoods in the future. Once secured, FWC staff transported Micanopy to our experts here at the Zoo, where he received multiple health assessments. Zoo veterinary professionals gave the panther a clean bill of health, and officials released the animal to the Big Cypress National Preserve in late May. Nearly a month later, USFWS and FWC again captured the Micanopy on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Reservation. The panther was exhibiting the same pattern of behavior, frequenting residential areas and preying on pets.
The panther returned to the Zoo, where it received additional medical attention. It was around this time that the Interagency Florida Panther Response Team decided that, due to a lack of change in its behavior, this animal posed a public safety concern and should be permanently removed from the wild. This meant that if officials could not find the panther a suitable home, it would have to be euthanized.
“As soon as we heard he could not be released again, we started looking at our own capacity and that of our partners to see who might be able to take this animal in,” said Dr. Ray Ball, Senior Veterinarian at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
After weighing the options carefully, the Zoo made the decision to house the panther, named “Mickey,” on-site. But this all hinged on one thing – how Mickey got along with Lucy, a resident Florida panther already living at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. In December, following an additional round of check-ups, Zoo staff began the process of introducing the two animals. The meetings went well, and the two panthers are now sharing the same habitat and can be seen by zoo visitors along with other native Florida wildlife.
“We are happy to have made a difference in the life of this animal, and we stand ready to assist USFWS and FWC with any future panther-related needs,” said Dr. Ball. “The Florida panther is more than an important symbol for the state, it is an integral species in our native ecosystem that our Zoo is dedicated to protecting.”