First reported Florida panther death of 2010

Florida panther found dead in Lee County; first reported death of year

* Posted January 19, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.

Florida wildlife officials reported this morning the first death of an endangered Florida panther in 2010.

The male panther, between two and three years old, was found last night west of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, about a mile south of Corkscrew Road in Lee County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The panther was found by a citizen who saw vultures feeding and thought they might have found a dead calf, according to this morning’s report.

A preliminary investigation has determined the cause of death to be another panther because of puncture wounds on the dead panther’s forearms and hind legs and hair embedded in the claws on the rear legs.

Last year was a record year for roadkill deaths of wild panthers, which scientists estimate number between 100 and 120 in South Florida.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Kans. facility with history of big cat escapes, attacks gets new director

New life for man, zoo

Recently hired director, Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo to start fresh together

By Mary Clarkin – The Hutchinson News –

GREAT BEND – When Scott Gregory talks to the animals, he does so with an English accent.

Uprooted at age 12 when his father’s printing business job took the family from England to Florida, Gregory recalls an adjustment that was tearful. Far different was the adjustment he made this month, moving from Florida to Great Bend to take over as director of the city’s zoo.

“I love the zoo,” said Gregory, 28, with an enthusiasm only surpassed in a recent interview when the topic turned to the city.

People greet each other by name, and when city officials knew he needed to find a place to live, they helped him find a home, he said.

“I honestly can’t say enough about the guys at the city,” Gregory said.

Both Gregory and city leaders have matching goals for the zoo, too.

“They want to be the top of the top,” Gregory said.

Animal escapes

Brit Spaugh Park & Zoo, on Great Bend’s north end, drew unwanted publicity this year when a 150-pound mountain lion escaped during feeding time and was shot and killed on the zoo grounds by local law enforcement.

It served as a reminder of previous incidents.

Great Bend Police Department incident reports include a 1986 incident in which a man claimed he was attacked by a black leopard at the zoo; a 2005 report noting a mountain lion’s escape from a cage; a 2006 claim by a woman of an attack by a hawk; and a 2008 report in which the zoo director said an animal was running loose at the zoo but was caught and returned to its cage.

U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections in recent years have noted, in part, the need for a more secure gate to the bison enclosure and better shelter for animals. The reports also showed corrective action subsequently was taken.

Zoos in Hutchinson, Garden City and Manhattan have achieved accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but not the Great Bend zoo.

In late September, longtime zoo director Mike Cargill resigned and the city launched a search for a new director.


Scott Gregory was enjoying a close-up view of a parade in Disney World when his cell phone rang. Great Bend City Hall was on the other end.

“So I’m yelling on my phone,” recalls Gregory, who dashed to a gift shop in a frustrating effort to find quiet.

As Gregory walked around the gift shop, city officials participating in a conference call on the other end conducted what Gregory described as a “semi-interview.”

“I haven’t got that job,” is what Gregory thought at the conclusion.

However, there was a second call from Great Bend, and the city flew Gregory to Kansas for an interview.

Gregory had been working at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium, Fort Myers, Fla. However, a national economic recession that crippled Florida’s real estate values and raised the jobless rate also had jeopardized finances for the preserve.

Gregory sent out 50 job applications, including one to Great Bend. He handed in his two-week notice of resignation at Calusa, and the family took a holiday to Disney World. The call from Great Bend came on the family’s last day at the theme park.

The Brit Spaugh zoo is far smaller than Calusa, but it boasts a wide range of animals, from bears to lions to tigers to reptiles to ducks.

Both Gregory and Great Bend city leaders saw an opportunity.

Great Bend Human Resource Director Terry Hoff said Gregory’s previous work experience, equipping him with supervisory skills and experience with animal care, was a strong plus.

There was something else, too.

“I think that one of the things that appealed to us about Scott was his energy and his excitement,” Hoff said.

Gregory started work Dec. 7. His wife, Carin Gregory, and their 21/2-year-old son, Noel, also have moved from Florida, in a trip that involved two vehicles, two dogs and two cats.

Carin Gregory has education and work experience in the same field, and she has found a job with Great Bend veterinarian Dr. Michael Malone.

From bowling to animals

Gregory’s passion as a teenager in the U.S. was bowling. He joined a league, worked at a bowling alley, and received a bowling-related college scholarship.

“It was a lifestyle for me,” he said.

Swinging a 15-pound bowling ball, however, takes a toll on a body, and Gregory noticed signs of carpel tunnel. A doctor advised he could expect to have physical problems if he continued at that pace, so Gregory, who had pet snakes and lizards growing up, entered Santa Fe Community College in Florida, which has its own teaching zoo.

Gregory enjoyed hands-on learning as he earned a degree in zoology. After graduating, he proceeded to Wild Adventures in Georgia, where his responsibilities included big cats and big birds.

Achieving the Association of Zoos & Aquariums accreditation will require staff training, documentation and recordkeeping, and fulfilling prescribed animal care.

Officials with zoos in Sedgwick County, Garden City and Manhattan have provided help as Great Bend begins a process that could take anywhere from one to four years.

“We think it’s wonderful,” said Great Bend zookeeper Trish McKinley, as she and fellow zookeeper Michelle Wallace worked together on the grounds recently.

“It’s not just a one-time thing, it’s a continuing process,” McKinley pointed out.

Gregory also hopes to bring more school groups, Scouts and home school students to the zoo.

He’s “a young man that’s kind of an up-and-comer,” Hoff said.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Christmas critters: Parents buying exotic pets as gifts for kids

[The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.]

By Shannon Winslow-Claunch, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Released : Sunday, December 20, 2009 12:41 PM

Dec. 20–Don’t know what to get little Johnny for Christmas? In an age of commercialism and numbness to the mundane, some parents might be tempted to wow their kids this year with the gift of an exotic pet.

Pet stores encourage consumers to do their own research when it comes to adding any pet to the family. But with easy access to baby turtles and parakeets at mall kiosks, impulse buys at Christmas for all sorts of animals have become commonplace.

Katrina Workman, who works at PetSmart on 23rd Street in Panama City, owns a variety of animals, including snakes, which have been a key concern in Florida for some time. A mother of three girls, she said her snakes, guinea pigs, parakeets, lizards, dogs and cats all add joy to her household.

“The warm-blooded mammals associate with family members in the same way that they relate to their own kind, and the reptiles get so excited when we feed them little meal worms,” Workman said. “Each one really has its own personality.”

Any pet is considered exotic if it is not native to the area, according to Jeremy Hainus, manger of PetSupermarket on 23rd Street. He advises customers to find out what their children want for Christmas, because parents will need to take care of the pet if the child does not take responsibility for the animal.

PetSmart’s Leah Owens has worked the Christmas rush before, as the store often is busy Dec. 23 and Christmas Eve with parents buying pets for their children. Many parents might opt to buy a tank habitat and gift card to leave under the Christmas tree, according to Hainush. When the children are participants in choosing the gift, they tend to be more responsible caregivers, he said.

Ferrets, naturally inquisitive and playful, and guinea pigs are some of the top sellers this year. According to Hainush, the Disney film “G-Force” inspired many consumers to opt for small mammals as additions to their family.

In the movie, a specially trained squad of guinea pigs is dispatched to stop a diabolical billionaire from taking over the world. Real ferrets and guinea pigs don’t wear night vision goggles or carry heavy artillery however, so parents may find their well-intentioned gifts soon lose their appeal.

PetSmart manager Tara Butler showed off some of the birds for sale. Parakeets and conures fluttered about and chirped wildly. She said some consumers get them home and don’t realize how loud they are in a home setting.

And buyer beware, as store warranties vary from one to two weeks depending on place of purchase.

Stephanie Willard, the director of education at ZooWorld, said that while the staff all adores the exotics they take care of, they absolutely do not make good gifts.

Parrots can live 50 years, and that is not an average commitment people usually want to make.

Lions, tigers and iguanas

A tiger or mountain lion might not be on most Christmas lists, but some Bay County residents have welcomed predatory big cats into their lives. Stan Kirkland, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said several Bay Countians are registered owners of tigers and mountain lions, and a number of Southport residents have permits for cougars, and even a Siberian tiger, said Kirkland.

Willard said big cats do not make good pets in any situation, citing the danger from a large predators. Zoos serve to educate and breed, but as a pet in someone’s home, the novelty wears off and the cats become unmanageable. Willard said pet owners rely on zoos as sanctuary for their unwanted cats and there isn’t always room — then the animals must be euthanized.

As an alternative to purchasing a big cat, the nonprofit ZooWorld offers the Adopt a Wild Child Program. “If you want to ‘adopt a lion,’ a person can donate to their care,” Willard said.

While the state restricts public access in zoos to predatory cats, there are some levels of donation that allow close encounters, such as with serval kittens.

Even iguanas have served as pets. Kirkland knows a Panama City homeowner with a large one.

“All that separates the animal from passersby is a patio screen,” he said.

Iguanas can make good pets, but there are health risks the animal might face if its habitat is not conducive to its natural needs, according to Serious health concerns for captive iguanas include metabolic bone disease, kidney disease, broken tails, nose rubbing, egg binding and male aggression.

Hainush said if parents want to try their hand at lizards, a good start is the bearded dragon, which is sometimes called the puppydog lizard. But, he reiterated, animals of any breed should never be an impulse buy. Any pet’s habitat should mimic their natural environment to keep the pet healthy and happy

“If consumers are not willing to make that commitment, we discourage them from making a purchase,” he said.

Dogs and cats end up at area shelters, but the agencies are not equipped to care for reptiles, birds and small mammals that become castoffs.

Amy Cox runs “Odd Animal Rescue” and considers herself an advocate for pets that are no longer wanted. She places them with families who will properly care for them and keeps many hard-to-place animals at her Panama City home. To contact Cox about adopting or relinquishing ownership of an animal, call 628-1502.

To see more of The News Herald or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright (c) 2009, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Another Oregon cougar orphan sent to zoo

Orphaned Lane County cougar cubs heading to new homes

By Katy Muldoon, The Oregonian
December 17, 2009, 7:44PM

For the third time this year and the second time this month, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife called the Oregon Zoo on Thursday with a request: Could the zoo accommodate an orphaned cougar? The female that arrived Thursday is sister to the cub pictured, a 10-week-old, 13-pound male.The cougar approached. The homeowner fired. And that’s the short explanation for why two strikingly elegant cougar cubs, dark spots accenting their golden coats, ended up at the Oregon Zoo over the past week and a half.

Their wild-to-captive saga began Dec. 6, according to Brian Wolfer of the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, when a homeowner living near the Springfield Country Club let his dogs out. The man saw a cougar emerge from the brush and stalk his dogs. He grabbed a gun. From his patio, he hollered to scare off the big cat but it kept coming.

He pulled the trigger.

When the Oregon State Police arrived, Wolfer said, they found the dead cougar 27 feet from the man’s patio and determined he broke no law, legitimately defending his pets.

But police found more: a deer carcass — one the cougar killed on the golf course and dragged into the brush 50 yards from the man’s home. Up a nearby tree was a cougar cub.

Police dialed Wolfer, the state’s district wildlife biologist, who arrived with a tranquilizer gun. He darted the blue-eyed cub, a male approximately 10 weeks old and 13 pounds, and shipped him to Portland’s zoo.

State wildlife officials frequently collaborate with the zoo, particularly finding homes for orphaned cougars or bears.

In the wild, the cats, also called pumas or mountain lions, nurse for at least three months. Their mothers, who don’t share territory with other adults, introduce them to meat at about 6 weeks old and the young spend the next year or two learning to hunt with her. An orphaned cub cannot survive in the wild.

The state’s cougar population is healthy enough to sustain the loss of cubs, but “I don’t think the public wants to see us euthanize a kitten,” Wolfer said, “if we can place it with a top-notch, credible, accredited facility.”

Cougar litters can include up to six young, though one or two is more common. Wolfer searched the area. He couldn’t find others.

Five days later, a caller said they’d seen a cougar cub cross a road in the same area. Wolfer returned with a hound trained to hunt cougars, but couldn’t locate the cub. He set live traps, without luck.

The biologist noticed that something kept feeding on the deer carcass, which remained where the mother cougar put it. He set up a camera, caught images of a cub dining on the deer and baited a live trap next to the carcass.

Late Wednesday or early Thursday, 10 days after losing its mother, the cub stepped into the trap.

Thursday afternoon the robust, 14 1/2-pound female cougar arrived at the zoo.

Like her brother — and another orphaned female cub rescued near Klamath Falls in June — this youngster will dine on bowls of formula until its ready to move to a new home.

Michelle Schireman, puma population manager for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a keeper at the Oregon Zoo, coordinates a list of AZA-accredited zoos eager to adopt orphaned cougar cubs. Last week’s is headed to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas, and the cub that arrived Thursday will make her new home at Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Mass.

“Everyone,” Schireman said, “loves big cats.”


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Orphaned Oregon cougar will go to Texas zoo

Orphaned cougar found near Springfield, Ore.

by staff

PORTLAND, Ore. — A 10-week-old male orphan cougar cub found last week near Springfield, Ore., has found a new home in Texas thanks to the Oregon Zoo.

Within hours of the male cub’s arrival, Oregon Zoo keeper and resident puma expert Michelle Schireman had found a zoo eager to adopt the baby. Located in Tyler, Texas, the Caldwell Zoo is “very excited to have the cub heading their way for the holidays,” Schireman said.

The male cub, who Oregon Zoo keepers describe as “very handsome and feisty,” was found last week near Springfield, Ore. When the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife established that he was an orphan, they contacted Schireman.

“I’m usually the first person fish and wildlife departments call when orphaned cubs must be removed from the wild,” Schireman said. “As the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ puma population manager, I can place these cougars in accredited zoos. Baby cougars can’t live in the wild without their mothers, so zoos offer the orphans’ only chance for survival.”

Schireman never sees many of the cats she helps — the range for cougars extends over nearly half the United States — but when cubs are orphaned in Oregon, she has a more hands-on role in determining the young cougars’ futures.

It usually takes her a few days to organize the babies’ transfer to a permanent home, and ODFW does not have the capacity to temporarily house orphaned cubs — but the Oregon Zoo sometimes has space in its animal quarantine facility to host the cubs on a short-term basis. While they stay at the zoo, the cubs receive care from Schireman and zoo veterinary staff.

The male cub — currently residing at the zoo in Portland before moving to Texas — is the second this year that ODFW has turned over to Schireman. The cub was preceded in June by a 9-week-old female found near Klamath Falls, Ore. Now named Gillin, the cub is a beloved fixture at the Northeastern Wisconsin Zoo.

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas and (in Florida) panthers, live mostly in the western United States and Canada. The mammals weigh from 75 to 130 pounds and have a carnivorous diet both in the wild and at the zoo. Females are either pregnant or raising cubs for the majority of their lives. After three months of gestation, two to three cubs are usually born in a litter and live with their mother for up to two years.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at