A Florida man’s dogs were looking outside from their porch when he suddenly went into a frenzy. Despite the owner’s efforts to silence the canines, they wouldn’t stop. Something was wrong and when he looked outside, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
A Populated Area
While Florida is famous for its swamps, and of course the Everglades, having wild animals roaming around densely populated cities was not something that its residents come across on a daily basis. The majority of animals would be too scared to create habitats in the area due to the amount of cars and buildings, which is why Hendra’s encounter was that much more unusual. Nevertheless, if it hadn’t been for his dogs, he wouldn’t have noticed it at all.
Fort Myers is the commercial center of Lee County, Florida, and has seen rapid growth in recent years. In 2010, the city population was around 62,000, whereas in 2016 it was at an estimated 77,000. The region has a tropical savanna climate, making it perfect for many wild animals which cannot survive in cold winter temperatures. Nevertheless, the area is full of schools and shopping centers which have taken over swamp areas for habitats. People didn’t expect to come across wild animals on a regular basis.
The close relationship between man and his canine best friend is full of unconditional love and protection. Dogs and owners have a connection and can understand the signs and signals to tell how the other one is feeling. This is exactly how Hendra knew something was wrong with his dogs when he heard them outside on the porch. The dogs were frantically barking, but it wasn’t a sound as if they was hurt, it seemed like they were trying to alert their owner.
Just because Hendra lived in a densely populated city, it did not mean that it was exempt from wildlife. Florida is surrounded by swamps and natural habitats so it was not unusual to find different animals lurking within the grass and the lakes. In many cases, these animals are less than friendly to humans and there have been many cases of people being attacked but wild animals, purely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Another Unwelcome Guest
There was a situation relatively recently that Hendra began to think about. One Floridian family were going about their business when they had a knock at their front door. They weren’t expecting any guests so they wondered who it could possibly be. The father went to open the door and he was greeted by a huge gator in an encounter that he would never forget. Hendra began worrying that his dogs had seen an alligator.
However, after glancing at his dogs, it was evident that there were no gators in sight, but the pups continued to act in a strange way. They were persistent with their barking but because he saw that his dogs weren’t in danger, he didn’t think anything of it. Perhaps they had seen some squirrels in the distance or perhaps new dogs were within walking distance. Either way there were many things that could have bothered the dogs to act in this way.
Interestingly, dogs can sense a thunderstorm or rain long before it can become visible. Dogs can express fear through barking and many of them communicate the changes in the weather through becoming louder in their barks and wailing. Through the air pressure changes and electricity, a dog can sense if a storm is coming and alert their neighbors. In this knowledge, Hendra began to assume a storm was on its way and his dogs were trying to express this to him.
What’s The Matter?
The weather in Florida is very unpredictable but when a storm is due, it comes almost immediately. When Phil saw that there were no signs of a storm, he began to question why his dogs were still reacting like this. There had to be something else that was going on and he knew he needed to jump into action and get to the bottom of the issue. He began to investigate by going out to see what his dogs might be looking at.
The only other reason that Phil could explain his dog’s strange behavior by was the changes in traffic which had affected the noise level near his father’s house. The road congestion had forced many cars to take detours in residential places and Hendra’s dogs were bothered by the disturbance. He assumed that if it was something serious or dangerous, the dogs would be crying and giving alert signals, instead of going into a frenzy. It was as if they were intrigued by something.
Daddy, What’s That?
Suddenly, Hendra’s son, Phillip Jr shouted out to his father that there was a “funny dog” sitting out on the porch. Hendra knew that in his fathers neighborhood there were many families with dogs, but why did his son point this specific one out. His son continuously stared at the figure outside, and Phil was forced to go and take a look. He assumed his young son had just seen a new dog, but it was anything but that.
Phil walked over to the back door and opened it to see his dogs standing there, barking frantically. It appeared that his dogs weren’t wrong and there was a huge figure resting calmly on his porch. Phil was in shock and was unsure of what to do next. He needed to step out further to make out what exactly the animal was, but he needed to be careful with how he approached it. He didn’t want to put his dogs or himself in any danger.
As he got slightly closer to the figure, Phil immediately knew what it was, and he could not believe it. He had heard stories in the past of people coming across gators and different wild animals while running by the lakes, but he never imagined it to come to him. He knew he had to keep his cool as to not scare his dogs that much more, but the whole situation was terrifying and he knew he needed to get his dogs inside.
Ready To Pounce
As it turned out, the huge animal that was in stretching distance from Phil and his dogs was none other than a Florida panther! He had only ever heard stories of them walking around in people’s backyards, but still couldn’t believe there was one in his home. Any wrong step could turn the situation into a very nasty one and Phil began recalling how he had heard of people being mauled by panthers. His heart was racing.
These panthers were not to messed around with. The Florida endangered population of the cougar live in forests and swamps in South Florida and can often be spotted in many of the densely populated towns and counties in the sunshine state. The males can weigh up to 160 pounds, making them incredibly strong predators that find and feed on prey very easily. Phil was lucky to have had an encounter with one without being attacked almost instantly, but it was not over.
Panther Vs. Gator
Florida is home to two very strong and dangerous predators, the panther and the alligator. When the alligators come into contact with panthers, they become their prey and the panthers cannot do much to save themselves. Both of these animals live in close proximities from one another and can often find themselves resting in the backyard of Florida residents. Due to humans posing a threat to their existence, they often fight back with fatal consequences.
Due to the severity of the situation, Phil knew that he needed to bring his dogs to safety as soon as possible. One pounce on the dogs from the panther could end in a tragic situation and Phil refused to even fathom the idea of it. In addition, Phil was confused as to how to deal with a panther on his porch, did he call animal services or did he let it stay? He knew he needed some advice.
Looking For Answers
First, Phil insisted that his father come and take a look at what was comfortably sitting on his porch. When his father peered out of the window, he was in total disbelief. He couldn’t believe that an animal so powerful and dangerous had decided to take a rest in his backyard. He began wondering if there was something more to it. Was it his house for a specific reason? Were his family in grave danger? More information was needed.
The family decided to stay as silent as possible. They did not want to bother the panther in case he lunged at them or hurt one of the dogs. They were fiercely protective over their family and they couldn’t begin to imagine what would happen if the deadly panther was to get inside the house. Phil started to walk over to the phone to call animal services and get further guidance, but then something unbelievable happened.
Taking A Break
In an instant, the panther turned around and began gazing into the eyes of the family as they snapped away with the camera. They were scared. Hearts racing , they did not dare move an inch. Instead of running away, or running towards them, the panther did something completely unexpected. Rather than becoming aggressive, it took a slower approach and sat back and relaxed! It didn’t seem to be alarmed that everyone was staring, it just wanted a break.
Panther In The Neighborhood!
When Hendra and his family first spotted the panther, they began texting their family and close friends to be safe and stay inside. Upon hearing that there was a loose panther in East Fort Myers, residents began to panic and ensure that no one was walking around in case of an attack. The news spread like wildfire and people quickly took to social media to tell all. However, it got out of hand when people began fabricating the whereabouts and intentions of the animal.
Recalling That Moment
Upon the news spreading, Hendra was contacted by the FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute who’s mission is to protect and preserve animals in Florida, specifically protecting the panther through their research and management, as well as education in Florida. Phil told the organization of the encounter, explaining,”It stayed for about 20 minutes and laid down for a bit.” He continued explaining, “it looked at us inside the window then slowly walked away and we have not seen it since.”
The FWC posted the pictures of the panther to their Facebook page and wrote on the post, “We’d like to mention that this sighting did not occur in the Oldsmar area of Pinellas County. There’s been a lot of misinformation spreading on social media regarding the sighting location, so please disregard these false claims.” It seemed as though everyone was panicking at the thought of a panther in their neighborhood. The post received over 24,000 likes and over 23,000 shares.
Phil Hendra also revealed that it is actually not the first time that his parents had had an encounter with a panther before. He explained that, “My parents have lived here since 1988 and they may have seen a younger panther about two years ago, but nothing compares to this once in a lifetime experience.” Hendra was incredibly thankful that his family were all safe and the interaction with the panther was nothing but pleasant. It just wanted some time to chill out.
This endangered animal is threatened by so many and tragically subjected to poaching across the state. Darrell Land, a panther team leader at the FWC explained that “Typically, people clear enough land for their houses, but their yards are in native habitat. Panthers are in those same areas where human growth has been increasing.” Hendra showed a compassionate and animal friendly response to the panther taking a rest in his father’s backyard and hopefully other Floridians would show the beautiful animals that humans pose no threat.