​Rare Florida panther sightings go viral

Phil Hendra found an endangered Florida panther sitting on the porch of his father's house in East Fort Myers.

Phil Hendra/Facebook

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Two rare sightings of the endangered Florida panther have gone viral.

One Florida panther made a rare appearance, sitting on the porch of a home in East Fort Myers.

Phil Hendra and his family were visiting his father's house March 18 when his son pointed out a "funny dog" outside.

That dog turned out to be a Florida panther that was resting on the porch.

Hendra says the endangered big cat didn't run away when it looked at the family, who observed it from inside the house. Hendra says the animal stayed for about 20 minutes, and Hendra and his family were able to take photos.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted Hendra's photo on its Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Facebook page on Tuesday. It has since been shared more than 9,000 times.

About 35 miles away, in Naples, Florida, at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Tina Dorschel had a run-in with a panther that had found its way onto an enclosed walkway during her nature walk, as her video posted on Facebook reveals.

On on early morning nature walk we saw a gator, a snake, frogs, pretty birds, and had this unexpected encounter. (Warning...curse word at end!)

Posted by Tina Dorschel on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Panthers' territory once covered the entire Southeast, but today their habitat is limited mainly to southwest Florida.

Fewer than 160 of the endangered wildcats remain, and sightings are rare.


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