MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Have you ever seen a Florida panther? The answer is probably 'no' for most of us because the official state animal of Florida is elusive, shy, and endangered. But one Florida man, who was definitely in the right place at the right time, spotted five of them in a single day and four of them were at the same time!
Ezra Van is a photographer and videographer who lives in Miami Beach.
Van says he has been tracking Florida Panthers in the wild for a few years and up until January 13, he had never seen any.
But that fateful day in mid-January at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve Park in the Big Cypress section of the Everglades, he spotted one and then it only got better from there.
Van said he was just a few miles up the main road of the Preserve, which is known as the Amazon of the North America, when he saw one panther about 200 meters away. He was barely able to get a picture of it though.
He waited patiently for a few hours for the big cat to return, but no luck.
He figured he was done for the day and started to leave around sunset, but then, in the middle of the road he saw it, a beautiful Florida panther chasing an injured Turkey Vulture. Then another panther appeared, and another, and another.
"I was about 60 meters away in the truck and frantically started taking pictures and video," explained Van on his Facebook page. "It looks like it was a mom and three adult cubs and mom was teaching them how to hunt."
The big cats chased the big bird around a while, then left it alone.
The four panthers sat on the grass for a while before retreating silently into the Everglades.
"I can't lie, I was still shaking from excitement an hour later," recalled Van. "Many of the rangers that work days say they have been there decades and have never seen a panther, the Sheriff that work at nights says they see them every once in a while. I've been told that seeing four is a once in a lifetime event."
The FWC states there are only about 120-230 adult Florida panthers left in the wild, making them one of the rarest and endangered mammals in the world. Even at their best estimates, 230 panthers are not a sustainable population size. The Florida panther is currently listed as endangered and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
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