Endangered Florida Panthers Pop Up in Unexpected Places This Month

Florida panthers are an extremely endangered species. Even the most optimistic estimates of their population don't reach above 200. 

So when humans go around doing their human things, it's quite rare to randomly come across a wild panther doing its wild panther things. Yet this week, Florida has seen two such incidents, both of which went viral. 

The more recent encounter happened to Tina Dorschel, a tourist from Wisconsin. She was taking an early-morning hike on Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary's famed boardwalk in Collier County when she heard something coming toward her. 

She whipped out her camera in time to see a Florida panther galloping along the boardwalk. Luckily for Dorschel, the panther appeared to be running late to some sort of panther meeting and didn't have time to stop and confront her. 

Dorschel isn't alone in her random panther encounter. According to the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Phil Hendra was visiting his father in east Fort Myers March 18 when he looked outside and saw a panther just chilling on the deck.

"It stayed for about 20 minutes and laid down for a bit," Hendra told FWC. "It looked at us inside the window, then slowly walked away, and we have not seen it since. My parents have lived here since 1988, and they may have seen a younger panther about two years ago, but nothing compares to this once-in-a-lifetime experience." Such close encounters are rare, but the panthers now live within a small portion of their natural habitat thanks to development. Because of their low numbers, the chance of seeing one in the flesh is low, but the big cats do wander into human territory from time to time. 

Luckily for these guys, their encounters with humans ended well. That doesn't often happen when panthers encounter humans driving cars. 

So far in 2016, 11 panthers have been found dead, with nine of them believed to have been hit by cars. The latest deceased panther was found just two days ago in Collier County. 

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