Guest article by Susan Strawbridge, Park Services Specialist
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park has announced that “Yuma” is the name selected for the Florida Panther kitten that will be make its home at the Wildlife Park. “Yuma” is Native-American for “Son of the Chief.” Over 100 names were submitted by park staff and visitors. The four most frequently suggested names were then voted on by Park staff. The kitten’s name was announced by Park Manager Kim Tennille at Saturday’s Earth Day Celebration at the Park.
Back in January, the approximately seven-day old kitten was rescued by biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County. The one-pound male kitten was found in a matted down area of sawgrass and was nonresponsive with a dangerously low body temperature. Biologists determined that the kitten was in very poor condition and would not survive without intervention. The decision was made to rescue him and bring him into captivity.
The kitten was immediately transported to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples where veterinarians and staff performed life-saving measures to treat him for dehydration, malnourishment and raise his body temperature. Once he was stable, he was transported to Lowry Park Zoo for further rehabilitation and vaccines. While in their care he continued to improve, gaining weight and strength.
On April 3, 2014, the Florida Panther kitten was moved to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where he will make his home. The kitten was kept for the first few weeks in the Felburn Wildlife Care Building so he could acclimate to a new environment and the wildlife care staff. Now at approximately 13 weeks old, he weighs about 15 pounds.
The kitten can be seen, weather permitting, at a distance during the Wildlife Encounter programs. These programs are held daily at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. He will eventually be introduced into the Panther habitat.