FORT MYERS, Fla. – Some Florida panthers and bobcats have been acting strangely lately, and it's gotten the attention of state wildlife officials.
Both cat species have been observed walking with a strange gait and may be suffering from some type of poisoning.
"We have not seen anything like this in wild panthers or bobcats in Florida before," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation spokeswoman Carli Segelson in an email.
Florida panthers are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state laws.
The big cat is also the official animal of the Sunshine State.
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Some, though, are exhibiting concerning behaviors.
One panther and one bobcat that were tested showed signs of neurological damage. Video has also shown eight panthers, mostly kittens, and an adult bobcat with the same condition.
Wildlife officials said the animals have struggled "coordinating their back legs."
"While we do not know what is causing the abnormal gait, possible causes include a variety of toxins and infectious diseases, many of which have been ruled out," Segelson said. "The affected animals that we have had in hand have not had distemper."
Multiple videos of affected cats were collected from Lee, Collier and Sarasota counties, and FWC believes at least one cat in Charlotte is also suffering from the condition.
Gil McRae, director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said the state is working with federal agencies to gather more information.
"We’re working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a wide array of experts from around the world to determine what is causing this condition," McRae said in a release.
Segelson said the overall numbers seem to be low at this point but that any level of neurological damage in multiple animals is concerning.
"We are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue," Segelson added.
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This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Florida panthers, bobcats walking strangely, may be poisoned, FWC says