SWFL man captures image of endangered Florida panther while hunting turkeys

Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:
Florida panther
Credit: Jason Francis

A man hunting wild turkeys at the Babcock Ranch Preserve experienced a rare interruption by an endangered Florida panther, and he was able to record the encounter for posterity.

Jason Francis, an IT specialist for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, heard a flock of turkeys gobbling before abrupt silence while sitting camouflaged against an oak tree at the preserve.

According to Francis, he heard twigs snapping on his left side before coming nearly face-to-face with the panther.

The hunter reached for his cell phone and took a picture of the endangered predator as the animal slowly approached him from nearly 30 feet away.

When Francis attempted to take video footage of the panther, however, the animal had already turned away before he could hit the record button.

When interviewed about his encounter, Francis said, “Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to attack me.”

He found the experience invigorating, as he claimed to have found another panther in the preserve in 2023 but could not get a photo to prove his statement.

The Florida panther is an endangered species, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that the population has dwindled to as low as 120 adults in the wild.

Most Florida panthers live in Southern Florida.

According to the FWC, in 1982, the panther was chosen as the state animal of Florida.

PantherCrossing is an organization working hard to protect the state animal of Florida.

Click here to learn ways you can help the endangered state animal of Florida.

Click here to learn more about the Florida panther.

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