Pair of Florida Panthers Filmed Fighting in Video Thought to Be a World First

A pair of Florida panthers have been captured in what is thought to be the first footage of two fighting.

The clip was filmed by Andres Pis, who was hunting for turkey with his son when he came across a young male panther. Seemingly out of nowhere, a second older panther appeared and struck the first panther "like a freight train," Pis said in the description of his video posted to YouTube.

The video shows the two cats in a vicious grapple before the younger panther makes a break for it as a wild boar approaches, apparently looking to insert itself into the fray. The elder panther is then seen walking off in the direction of its fighting partner.

"I have not seen footage like this before, and it helps us to visualize what happens in an aggressive encounter," Darrell Land of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told National Geographic.

"The larger panther appeared to be dominating the other, but the smaller was putting up considerable resistance," said Land, who is the department's Florida panther team leader.

Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation, described the footage of the fight as a "once in a lifetime video," saying the hunters were incredibly lucky to be able to witness the fight between two panthers, who typically avoid contact with humans.

"They are very in tune with our movement patterns, whether it be on foot or traffic," she told Newsweek. "Mountain lions are called ghost cats.

"I love community science like this," she said. "We get glimpses into how these animals are interacting and behaving because of people like these hunters, who were able to record this. It really does contribute to research. So these videos aren't just fun they actually do contribute to science and protecting these cats."

The fight filmed by Pis is an example of intraspecific aggression, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says is the second leading cause of death for this subspecies of puma (behind vehicle collision).

While Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) can live for 20 years, female cats are more likely to survive to old age than their male counterparts. In cases of aggression, it tends to involve adult males killing juvenile males who have been attacked for trespassing their territories in search of females.

Brian Silliman the Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Conservation Biology, told Newsweek events like these are not uncommon. In fact, fights over resources are very common at normal population levels and as populations increase thanks to conservation efforts, there is a greater chance we will get to witness them.

"The mere fact that density is increasing means there is an increasing probability that natural interactions like this will be seen by humans," he said.

According to the Endangered Species Coalition, Florida panthers are the most endangered cat living in North America. The latest figures reported from the FWC suggest there are between 120 and 230 adult panthers left in the population.

The Endangered Species Coalition says there may be as few as 100 to 160 invidividuals left in the wild. While the population remains low, the subspecies has seen a significant increase in their numbers since the 1970s when there were thought to be just 20 wild Florida panthers remaining.

Florida panther at Palm Beach Zoo
A healthy Florida panther is seen on display at the Palm Beach Zoo on August 22, 2019 in Palm Beach, Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating an apparent neurological problem that has been seen in wild Florida panthers. The issue has been seen in the endangered panthers as well as bobcats and is causing them to have trouble walking, and wildlife experts don’t know why. Joe Raedle/Getty

Males require a significant amount of space to prevent conflict like the fight filmed by Pis. According to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the average home range for a male Florida panther is around 200 square miles, which is approximately four times the size of Miami. The home range for an average female is around 75 square miles.

The organization calls for the creation of corridors to make movement between conservation areas safer for Florida panthers and reduce the number of road casualties. According to FSW, ten panthers were found killed in road accidents this year alone.

The Florida panther is one of more than 25 subspecies of puma and is protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Historically, their range extended from Florida to Louisiana and they could be spotted throughout the Gulf States and Arkansas, the National Wildlife Federation states. Today, most are found south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida but male panthers have been reported throughout the peninsula, even making their way to Georgia.

The article has been updated to include comments Beth Pratt and Brian Silliman.