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Rare Florida Panther Killed by Another Panther

Mar 31, 2014 05:24 PM EDT

A rare Florida panther is believed to have been killed by another panther, according to wildlife experts.

Florida panthers are an endangered subspecies of cougar that have adapted to the forests and swamp ecosystems of southern Florida.

No more than 160 Florida panthers are in the wild today, and when officials find one dead it has typically been killed after being struck by a vehicle.

That the panther was killed by one of its own raises questions about the health of the Florida panther population. Territorial aggression between panthers is responsible for the second largest number of panther deaths in Florida, behind vehicular collision, according to the Florida Sierra Club.

Florida panthers once spread across a territorial range that covered all of Florida, Georgia Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and most of Arkansas. However, today their current breeding range is restricted to just 5 percent of its historic range. Interspecies aggression highlights the problems facing the Florida panther. Although their population is barely extant, they are confined to a very limited territory, which can cause acts of aggression between territorial males.

The panther was found dead in the Big Cypress National Preserve, part of the cat's current range, which also includes the Everglades National Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

In 2012, there were 26 reported Florida panther deaths, 18 of which were killed by vehicles and six of which were acts of interspecies aggression.

In 2014, at least eight Florida panthers have been killed, according to The Associated Press. The cause of each death is unclear.

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