Panther recuperating after surgery at UF

Panther 2014

Dr. Dan Lewis, in blue shirt, looks over a Florida panther in the surgical preparation area of the UF Small Animal Hospital on April 18. (Photo by Jesse Jones)

By Sarah Carey

A 3-year old male Florida panther is recovering from two surgeries performed at the University of Florida after the 108-pound cat was struck by a vehicle in South Polk County on April 14.

According to Dr. Mark Cunningham and Dr. Jennifer Korn, both veterinarians with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), quick action by the driver who struck the cat, other citizens, law enforcement agents and a team of veterinarians was instrumental in the animal’s survival.

About 10 p.m. on April 14, James Durrance of Ft. Meade was driving near the intersection of U.S. Highway 98 East and Edgewood Drive North, near Ft. Meade, when an animal he believed to be a dog ran into the side of his vehicle. When Durrance discovered the injured animal was an endangered Florida panther, he immediately contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which contacted the FWC.

FWC biologists and law enforcement responded. The panther had retreated into nearby woods, where he had crawled under a fallen tree, and it took several hours of searching through the night by responders that included a sheriff’s aviation unit before the injured cat was located.

Florida panther, 2014.

Dr. Dan Fredholm, a resident with the zoological medicine service, checks vital signs while Dr. Luisito Pablo, right, adjusts anesthesia on a Florida panther prior to the animal receiving surgery on April 18. (Photo by Jesse Jones)

FWC veterinarian Cunningham sedated the cat, stabilized it and transported it to UF’s Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville, where Dr. Dan Lewis, a professor of small animal surgery and orthopedic surgery specialist, implanted two stabilizing plates to repair the cat’s broken left femur. A second surgery was performed on April 18, also by Lewis, when a third plate was inserted.

Last June, Lewis performed surgery on another panther that was successfully released back into the wild by FWC staff earlier this year. Also key in providing care and support to the panther were members of UF’s zoological medicine service, including Drs. Ramiro Isaza, an associate professor, and Dr. Dan Fredholm, a second-year resident, along with members of the anesthesia and radiology teams.

“The surgery went well,” Lewis said after the second procedure on April 18. “These cats are incredibly strong and they can bend or break the stainless steel implants we use to stabilize their fractures.” To offset that worry, the third plate was placed on the opposite side of the original two plates to protect those plates from failing, he said.

A bone graft was also performed to accelerate healing, Lewis said.

The injured panther, not previously documented by FWC, has been given the identifier FP232. This animal is now housed at White Oak, a conservation center in Yulee, where it will remain until it recovers and is released.

If you would like more information on panthers in Florida, visit


Editor’s Note: This story contains information provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


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