|Written by Marjorie Holt|
|Sunday, January 18 2009|
Big Cat Field Stories Florida Panther Don Juan: New Kid in Town On the morning of December 8, Susan Lowe, Wildlife Care Supervisor, observed legendary Florida panther, Don Juan, explore his new exhibit area at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (The only Florida state park that exhibits captive wildlife). The session lasted for about fifteen minutes on his first day there. True to his moniker (earned by having sired approximately 30 kittens in the wild), the panther began vocalizing immediately when he emerged from his day pen as if calling out to the female Western cougar, Maygar, who lounged in her den nearby. He moved to the center of the exhibit, paused, and then circled around to check out the fenced perimeter. Don Juan, known as FP79 to biologists, pawed at the chain links a few times and then moved on. Finally, he began to show signs of uneasiness and made his way back into his day pen to sun himself on a platform.Above: Don Juan Tests the Limits of the Chain Link Fence By Susan Lowe
Left: Maygar, Don Juan’s Probable New Love Interest
By Claude Desrochers
FP79 aka Don Juan Explores His New Surroundings
Courtesy Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
In February of 2006, Don Juan was removed to captivity at Busch Gardens Amusement Park in Tampa after repeated depredations in Big Cypress National Preserve and Copeland, Florida. He had been living at Busch Gardens since that time, in a very small enclosure, not visible to the public. He was essentially waiting for the construction of his planned large exhibit of natural habitat, which because of funding difficulties, did not materialize. In spite of the cramped living quarters, Don Juan had become well adjusted to his new lifestyle at Busch Gardens. Mark Cunningham, FWC Veterinarian assisting with the transition, examined FP79 and concluded, "He’s doing well in captivity, good weight, very healthy and has settled in good general condition." The recent death of Homosassa Springs’ 23-year-old Western cougar, Sheena, had now afforded an opportunity to move Don Juan into a larger, more suitable setting where he could be observed by the public.
Susan Lowe, who is facilitating his acclimation, explains, "Don Juan is being introduced to his exhibit area in short periods: a slow transition so he is happy and comfortable. It’s a good 100 feet from the boardwalk viewing area but he can be seen on his perch. It is a nice open area and there is cover, with boulders in the center and a low platform. He has a night house and day pen and platforms where he can rest. The area has no top and lots of trees - banded for security." Also, for security he will wear the collar for at least six months.
Susan adds that Don Juan (age 11) and Maygar (age 9) are well aware of each other and seem to enjoy the exposure. They take turns using the exhibit habitat so are never in direct contact. Each cat dines daily on about two pounds of "meat mix": ground premium horsemeat mixed with commercial cat food which has been soaked until soft. "Of course the cats do find extra nutrition", adds Ms. Lowe, "…when the unsuspecting squirrel or bird wanders into their habitat area. These pumas are surprisingly fast and once they catch their prey will drag it around and show it off."
Susan extends to everyone a warm welcome to come visit Don Juan and his friends at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, Homosassa Springs, FL. http://www.homosassasprings.org/Homosassa.cfm
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