Brazen Young Panther Killed a Long Way From Home

Males. When they're young and brash, trying to mark their territory and impress girls, there's no telling what they'll do. Run off to Georgia, even, and get themselves killed.

That's apparently what happened to a Florida panther who was shot and killed by a hunter last year in the woods of Troup County, Georgia. The animal's death set off a flurry of speculation that some kind of panther or cougar had escaped from captivity, because Florida panthers, which are an endangered species, hadn't been seen in Georgia in years. There's only about 120 of them left in South Florida, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Being that endangered wins the animals protection under federal law. The Fish and Wildlife Service must investigate when one of them is killed.So DNA samples from the rogue cat were sent to the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Maryland, which discovered that it was indeed a Florida panther-- albeit one who had wandered very far from home.

"Finding a Florida panther that far from southwest Florida is out of the ordinary, but male panthers, particularly younger ones, can travel great distances," Paul Souza, Field Supervisor of the South Florida Ecological Services Office, said in a press release.  "While it's unusual for panthers to be seen that far north, it is not impossible for a young male to travel so far."

The mystery of the cat's identity took about nine months to unravel, which means he got faster DNA-testing than some accused rapists. But hey, that's how the panthers roll.

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