Big Cats

Why Are Panthers and Bobcats Suddenly Stumbling and Falling Down in Sarasota County?

Researchers are investigating why the big cats are experiencing neurological damage.

By Megan McDonald August 21, 2019

The endangered Florida panther

Image: Shutterstock

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) is asking for the public's help in documenting an apparent neurological disorder affecting Florida panthers and bobcats—one that's caused them to be seen stumbling and falling down in Lee, Collier and Sarasota counties. As of this month, the FWC has confirmed the disease in one panther and one bobcat; camera footage from trails in Lee, Collier and Sarasota has also shown eight panthers—most of them kittens—and one adult bobcat displaying varying degrees of the condition. Florida panthers are native to Florida and currently on the endangered species list. 

“We are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue,” Gil McRae, director of the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, said in a release. “We’re working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a wide array of experts from around the world to determine what is causing this condition.” 

The cause of the disorder is currently unknown, although the FWC says it has ruled out a variety of diseases and causes; the organization is currently investigating potential toxins, including rat pesticide, as well as infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies. It's also asking the public to submit video of panthers and bobcats they see that appear to be experiencing a problem using their rear legs, a symptom of the disorder. Files less than 10MB can be uploaded to the FWC's panther sighting webpage at; to send larger files, contact the FWC at [email protected].

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