For the first time ever, Florida panthers were filmed fighting in an epic battle for territory
A hunting guide and his son shot a video of two Florida panthers brutally fighting over territory, the first time such a battle has been recorded, according to National Geographic. In the video, Andres Pis captured a fierce scramble between the animals as a flock of crows cawed from above. Gripping his rival's hind leg between his teeth, the stronger panther endured kicks and ferocious bites as he violently twisted his head with the intent to maim or kill. In the end, however, the smaller panther managed to escape, and the bigger cat was distracted from his pursuit by a large boar who decided it was a good moment to charge at the two but quickly abandoned its sudden attack when it was spotted by the dominant panther. With both opponents separated, the fight quickly came to an end, and the crows quieted as the excitement dissipated.
The whole thing was metal as hell.
These types of fights — called 'intraspecific aggression' by biologists to classify tussles between members of the same species competing over the same resource — are one of the leading causes of death for Florida panthers, according to National Geographic.
"I have not seen footage like this before," Darrell Land, a Florida panther specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told National Geographic. He explained that videos like Pis' recording are valuable because they can help researchers "visualize what happens in an aggressive encounter."
It's important for conservationists to study because the clashes are only expected to get worse. Florida panthers are an endangered species with a population of about 200; an improvement over their lowest numbers in the 1970s, when the population was fewer than 20 big cats. Texas panthers were brought in to breed with the remaining Florida subspecies, but the success of that program didn't solve all the difficulties the Floridian animals faced.
Male panthers are very territorial and tend to claim a large amount of land for themselves. Ideally, they'd be able to spread out in the wilderness throughout the state and prowl around their own spaces. But they're stuck in a limited area within south Florida due to human development, and it's here where they're prone to running into both humans and other cats looking to claim land.
It's one reason why wildlife corridors are necessary, Florida Wildlife Federation representative Meredith Budd told National Geographic. "Without the corridors to facilitate movement, you're limiting the amount of space they have to live, and you're increasing the chance of panthers overlapping."
That overlap is what seems to have happened in this footage. However, this instance doesn't necessarily mean the two panthers were desperate for resources. It looked to be a natural fight, noted David Shindle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to National Geographic, in an area that appeared to be "well-managed private lands that provide ideal habitat for the panther."
He also added that, although one wouldn't think an animal running into a hunter was a good thing, it was only thanks to the hunter that experts could see a "rare glimpse into the nature of Florida's iconic beast." In this case, the video not only served as a glimpse into wildlife, but a look at "the awe and respect that many of Florida's hunters have for their fellow predator and part-time competitor" as well.