A 14-week-old endangered Florida panther is recovering after he was found unresponsive on the side of the road.
The little panther was brought to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida on April 23 after he was found in Collier County.
“He definitely had some signs, based on his demeanor, he was basically in a comatose state,” said board certified veterinary neurologist Michelle Carnes.
Carnes said the then 12-week-old panther had a small fracture on his cheekbone, which combined with being in a coma, suggested he had head trauma.
At the hospital, he would lay on his side, not moving, requiring very intensive round-the-clock care, she said.
“Every couple hours, we had to turn him from side to side,” Carnes said. “We don’t know if he was hit by a car or if he fell.”
An MRI was deemed too risky for him. He was on intravenous food for a while. Then he went on to liquids and now is being bottle-fed.
“Things were really touch and go for the first five days,” she said.
Then the kitten was put on a specially-made cart _ called a quadcart _ which was made for another animal that had previously needed rehab, and he began to improve.
“Now he can stand on his own and can cruise around on his own,” Carnes said. “That’s how he started to gain the confidence and ability … I think that cart is key for him to start walking with support.”
On Wednesday, the panther, who was never named but affectionately called Ash by some at the hospital, was transferred to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa until he is permanently placed at a zoo.
He needs physical therapy every four to six hours and the zoo has the staff to do that, Carnes said.
“His prognosis is still guarded. He has made tremendous progress but he still has a long way to go,” she said. “There is no chance he will be able to be released into the wild. He will probably always have some relative disadvantage.”
On April 7 another baby panther, who died from injuries consistent with being hit by a car, had been found in the same area.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Florida panthers are endangered, with up to 160 adults living in the wild.