Adorable Florida Panther kitten makes State Park debut on Aug. 21

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A Florida panther kitten is getting the royal treatment as the state’s newest ambassador at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Park Service will introduce Yuma — a 7-month-old Florida Panther kitten weighing over 30 pounds — to his new home at Ellie Schiller Park in Citrus County. Yuma’s unveiling ceremony is at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Park’s Wildlife Encounter Pavilion, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd. in Homosassa.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists discovered the 1-week-old kitten barely alive on Jan. 23 while checking on the den of a female panther in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Naples, Florida. The cat, dehydrated and non-responsive, seemed to have been abandoned.

After receiving emergency care at Animal Specialty Hospital in Naples and rehabilitative care at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, the panther – now named Yuma, a Native American word meaning “son of the chief” – arrived at the state park on April 3.

Since humans have raised Yuma, park officials decided he cannot return to the wild and will live at Ellie Schiller State Park, serving as a representative for his species. For seven months, park staff and volunteers have been preparing an exhibit for the rambunctious panther kitten.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.