Mythical Panther Story
This story is based on the known habits of the Florida Panther. The story is true, if only someone had been there to see it happen. The Florida Panther is rare, elusive and its natural, undisturbed habits and reactions are largely unknown and unobserved.
The setting of this story is in one of the last remaining habitats of the Florida Panther, the Big Cypress Swamp. Most of the Big Cypress Swamp is now part of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The land is a mix of pine forest and cypress trees, both in open prairies and strands. There also small areas of hardwood hammocks. The pine forests consist of islands of palmetto plants, the elevation of which is just 6 to 12 inches above the surrounding area. An island part of the year, as it is surrounded by water. These islands usually abut open prairie, which is typically covered with muhly grass and sometimes a mix of cypress trees and myrtle brush. The lowest areas are cypress strands and cypress domes. During normal years of rainfall the cypress strands and domes will have water in them year round. In drought years, they also dry up. What grows where is affected greatly by the land elevation.
The Big Cypress Swamp is an inhospitable place in the months of summer. Watery and humid, the heat and bugs make both animal and man weary. The days are almost unbearable, only resting in the shade makes it tolerable. When evening finally comes the animals of the swamp, start to feed. this is when most of their activity takes place. Only the pine/palmetto forests and hardwood hammocks, provide a dry place for animals to rest. The rains of summer, with thunder and lightning, make even these areas wet some of the time. When the months of the fall season comes, there is some respite. The cypress tree leaves turn reddish brown and then fall from the trees, leaving bare branches for the winter. Then come the winter months, when the water recedes, leaving only water in the cypress domes. the cooler weather begins to make the area more hospitable and then the cold winds of winter blow from the North West and can become most bitter. This season gives way to the spring of the year, a time of renewal and pleasant weather in the Big Cypress. The cypress trees regain there green leaf growth and flowers appear here and there, to provide a subtle beauty. If you were to pick a time of the year to live in the Big Cypress Swamp, spring time would be it, But the animals must live there year round and survive it all.
Animals in the wild do not have names. Only man gives names to their offspring, to pets and sometimes to man made objects, such as a boat. The animal world interacts one on one, never communicating about a third, so names are not needed. This is a difference between man and animal. Animals do not communicate stories like man does, so for the purpose of this story names will be given, so humans can follow the story, but the animals don't know........................
Our story starts not at the very beginning, but in life's middle. Life is a continuous cycle of birth and death and a variable time between. So it is with the panther.
Tawny is a female adult panther, pregnant with two
kittens, one male, one female. The offspring of a male whose territory
overlaps Tawny's, but not by much. A chance encounter when Tawny was in
season resulted in this mating. Both are full blood Florida panthers, not
diluted by the Texas Cougars introduced by the Florida Panther program. In
the panther world such couplings are brief encounters, lasting less then a
week, with each going separate ways afterwards. The cubs father will take no
part in their up bring. The cubs may be born with the crooked tail that is
distinctive of the full blood Florida Panther.