Sandy Frees Two Panthers in Florida


Two young panthers are being hunted in Yulee, Fla., after they broke free with the help of superstorm Sandy.

Officials believe Sandy's wind knocked down a tree Sunday, which broke the enclosure fence at the White Oak Conservation Center, allowing the panthers to scamper off.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is tracking the male and female panthers, who were outfitted with radio collars. The panthers have not traveled far from their pen, and are still on White Oak property, according to FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker.

Parker told ABC News affiliate WJXX that officials are continuously monitoring their location and working to return them safely to their enclosure.

The 2-year-old panthers were trapped by the staff at the conservation in Florida center when they were 5 months old after their mother died. The staff had hoped to release the panthers back into the wild later this winter, according to Kipp Frohlich, head of the Imperiled Species Management Section at the FWC.

Their pens at the center are very secluded to ensure they have little contact with people. Five other panthers have been raised at White Oak and released back into the wild in south Florida.

Parker said scientists estimate there are between 100 and 160 adult and subadult panthers in south Florida.

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