Panthers are caught on wildlife cam making baby panthers in Florida. It’s a first

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Two panthers had a hot date in front of a trail camera, resulting in “what are likely the first ever images of Florida panthers mating,” according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Photos of the encounter were shared Dec. 21 on Facebook, showing the female may have played hard to get — at least at first.

The series starts with the two large cats following each other, then the female crouches in the grass and the mating process begins.

Biologist didn’t say how long it lasted, but the coupling concludes with the female appearing to growl angrily.

“These remote trail camera photos were taken on Babcock Ranch Preserve, Charlotte County, on Aug 24th,” the institute wrote. “Breeding success north of the Caloosahatchee River is critical to the long-term viability of the Florida panther population, so we are hopeful that this mating event resulted in a litter of kittens that would have been born around Nov 22.”

If the female gave birth, her kittens will likely emerge from the den in January, officials said.

Florida panthers weigh as much as 160 pounds and reach just over 7 feet “from nose to tip of the tail,” the state says. They are also endangered: It’s believed no more than 230 adults remain in Florida, mostly in the southwestern part of the state, experts say.

Billy Gunnels of Florida Gulf Coast University says having such a small population largely in one area means Florida’s panthers could be largely wiped out by a catastrophe, according to station WBBH.

“If you have one terrible terrible event ... maybe it’s a terrible hurricane, maybe it’s a disease that goes through the population … the animal disappears. They’re gone, they become extinct,” Gunnels told the station.

The “over the top” mating photos were also shared by the South Florida Wildlands Association, which noted a “disturbing” aspect to the story. Florida’s panthers “need vast swaths of roadless habitat” to survive, and that is rapidly disappearing, the association says.

“The Babcock Preserve where these photos were taken is adjacent to the ‘new town’ of Babcock Ranch. ... And those 17,000 acres of new development are now booming,” the association wrote. “Many other properties nearby are also ripe for development (development begets development), as are important habitats in private ownership throughout Central Florida.”

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