A mysterious neurological disorder has been observed in Florida panthers since 2010, causing disorientation and, in some cases, fatalities. Symptoms of the disorder include loss of muscle control, circling and head-bobbing, as well as an inability to find prey or to walk in a straight line. Although the exact cause of the disorder is unknown, researchers believe it may be related to environmental and dietary stress, as well as a neurological toxin present in panthers’ prey.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has monitored the panthers and has coordinated efforts with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to better understand the disorder and take steps to protect the panthers. The FWC is conducting research on panther diets and habitat, as well as providing medical care to afflicted panthers. It has also led public outreach campaigns to raise awareness of the disorder. Additionally, the Florida Panther Recovery Program is working to restore, protect, and enhance viable panther populations.