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Rescue Stories

Fun Fact!  Rare Black Bobcat Found!

For years there have been stories of black panthers prowling the woods and swamps of Florida's wilderness, but there is no official record they exist. 

However, the mystery may be over.  A black bobcat was captured along the St. Lucie Canal just south of Indiantown, and this just maybe what people have been referring to when they say they saw a "black panther" in the wild in Florida.

A woman recently called the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary because she had seen a "black panther" in her back yard.  The cat had killed a pet turkey and she had gotten a good look at the cat. 

She described the black cat to be the size of a large Labrador dog. The Sanctuary's nuisance wildlife expert, Deron Hartman, responded to the woman's call for help.  He found bobcat sized tracks near the location where she had last seen the cat, but nothing the size of what the woman had described.

Hartman set a live trap to see if the cat could be caught to find out just what was killing the woman's pets.  When he returned the next morning, the turkey snatcher turned out to be a melanistic (all black) bobcat.  The young bobcat weighed about 20 pounds and its fur was black from head to tail with faint dark spots and one small white patch of fur on the belly.

What zoos refer to as a "black panther" is actually a black jaguar or black leopard.  Even though people claim to have seen a black Florida panther, there is no concrete evidence they exist.  Florida panthers are really cougars and typically golden tan in color.

There has never ever been a black cougar or a black Florida panther ever found.  At least there is no official documentation of them; no pictures, no hides, no skins, no mounts, nothing to prove that there are black Florida panthers.  But, still we hear stories of black cats that lurk in the wilds of Florida.  Maybe we have found the missing piece of the puzzle and we now know what everyone has been referring to when they say they saw a black Florida panther in the wild.  Perhaps they really saw a black bobcat.

There are about 14 confirmed cases of black bobcats that have been recorded in Florida; the first dating back to 1939 when one was captured near the Loxahatchee River by Trapper Nelson. 

The recent capture of this black bobcat is more than just a rare find; it can also help bring answers to an old Florida tale about what people thought were black panthers roaming the woods of Florida.  The sanctuary will be working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to document this case and make sure it becomes part of the official state records.  The Sanctuary plans to return the black bobcat to the wild in a safe area away from people where he will be able to find plenty of natural food sources.

Injured Eagle Recovers and Returns to Waiting Mate

A bald eagle hanging out at the dump sure caught the attention of the staff at the St. Lucie County Landfill. When the eagle didn't move on after several days they figured something must be wrong.

It doesn't seem to be the most likely place for an eagle to be hanging out, but actually eagles often frequent landfills in search of food during times of slim pickings when it comes to finding food the natural way.

St. Lucie County Animal Control was the first to be called in to check out the transient eagle, but the bird managed to elude attempts by animal control officers to get a close look to make sure the eagle was not in imminent danger.

When the eagle failed to take flight after a few more days, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary was called in for further assistance.

When Sanctuary rescue staff arrived they found the eagle proudly standing on the top of the landfill like a member of royalty watching her loyal subjects conducting their daily activities. When approached the eagle would only fly short distances, but after chasing the bird up and down the hills at the landfill for about two hours rescuers finally captured the wayward eagle.

There were immediate concerns that this eagle may have been one of a pair of eagles that had a nest in a natural area less than a mile away from the landfill. When Sanctuary staff members went to the nest site to check there were no birds in the nest, but two young eagles were seen flying nearby.

Once at the Sanctuary, medical staff examined the female eagle and discovered that she had a fractured wing. The injury appeared to be a couple of weeks old; perhaps the result of a collision with a car or utility pole. The bird's wing was bandaged and she was given time to recuperate.

After a couple of months the bandages were removed and the eagle was placed in a large flight cage at the Sanctuary to begin rebuilding her flight muscles. When she was ready to be returned to the wild, she was brought to the area where the nest was located not far from the landfill.

A juvenile eagle was waiting in the trees as the release team pulled up, and as they were readying the recovered eagle for her release an adult eagle flew passed and landed in a tree near the nest.

David Hitzig had the honor of releasing the eagle. She took off into the wind, then banked around to the left and made a beeline to the tree with the waiting adult eagle. The two sat together for awhile and then took flight and landed again in a tree off in the distance.

We would love to think that we succeeded in not only healing an injured eagle, but also reunited a family in time for the coming nesting season.

Timing is Everything!

The resident white-tailed deer at the Sanctuary are animals that were confiscated from people who were keeping them illegally. Attempts to recondition them to be wild and fearful of humans were unsuccessful, so they can not be released into the wild and live permanently at the Sanctuary. However, in addition to helping the Sanctuary educate the public about our native wildlife, the resident deer also serve as role models and foster parents to the orphaned baby deer that are brought to the Sanctuary each year.

The resident white-tailed deer at the Sanctuary are animals that were confiscated from people who were keeping them illegally. Attempts to recondition them to be wild and fearful of humans were unsuccessful, so they can not be released into the wild and live permanently at the Sanctuary.

However, in addition to helping the Sanctuary educate the public about our native wildlife, the resident deer also serve as role models and foster parents to the orphaned baby deer that are brought to the Sanctuary each year.

The orphaned fawns in our care can grow up learning from the adult deer and become imprinted to their own kind and not human beings. Once the young deer are eating well on their own and have grown to a size that will allow them to have a fighting chance against predators they are moved to an offsite 20 acre compound for several more months before being released on a 3,000 acre natural area owned by one of the Sanctuary's members.

Of course the trick is not to let the young orphans get too mature before leaving the Sanctuary so they don't mate with our adult female deer. Our male deer are neutered to prevent unnecessary breeding.

This summer our timing must have been a little off, as Patton, one of our resident adult female deer, started putting on a little weight, and it wasn't from eating too much.

The Sanctuary staff was a little surprised to learn that one of the young orphans managed to leave a little DNA behind prior to being moved to the pre-release compound. It all worked out though. A newborn orphaned fawn was brought to the Sanctuary and would not take to nursing from a bottle. She was put in with Patton, who immediately took to the baby and then proceeded to go into labor.

Patton's baby and the orphaned fawn are both doing well. They too will be moved to the offsite compound in the months to come, but we will make sure to do it before their hormones kick in.

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