When it comes to experiences that are slightly terrifying and yet amazing at the same time, a run-in with a rare Florida panther in the swampy wilderness is right up there.

Tina Dorschel was enjoying a stroll through the National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, when one of the elusive cats bolted right past her along the park boardwalk. 

Dorschel caught the entire thing on camera and posted the once-in-a-lifetime encounter to Facebook. "On an early morning nature walk we saw a gator, a snake, frogs, pretty birds, and had this unexpected encounter," she writes.

Living in swamps and forests in the southern parts of the state, the Florida panther is a smaller subspecies of the more commonly seen cougar (also known as the mountain lion, Puma concolor). The population is currently listed as endangered, with only an estimated 100 surviving in the wild. 

Although the cats are known residents of the park, sightings like this one are extremely unusual – and experts like Audubon researcher Dr Shawn E. Clem were happy to see the animal dart past in such a hurry. "I think that what we saw from the panther's behaviour was actually a really good sign that the panther was afraid of the situation — they don't want to be around people," she told Mashable.

"Panthers are shy creatures and this kind of encounter was a lucky and extremely rare experience," added the sanctuary in a statement. We also tip our hats to Dorschel for (mostly) keeping her cool – overall, the situation played out about as well as anyone could have hoped. 

But we're not done with panthers yet. Not wanting to be left out of the spotlight, another Florida feline decided to shoot for its own 15 minutes of fame last month. The cat took some time out on a family’s front porch in Fort Meyers, and the homeowners managed to snap this awesome photo of the unexpected visitor (after initially mistaking it for a "funny dog"): 

It's not every day you look out the window to see a Florida panther sitting on your porch! Phil Hendra was at his father...

Posted by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Top header image: Everglades NPS, Flickr