US

Florida panthers: 2 kittens present outside known habitat

Wildlife officials say they have evidence of endangered Florida panthers breeding further north of their known habitat.

The panthers once roamed the Southeast, but their range is now limited to southwest Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates up to 230 panthers remain in the wild.

Wildlife officials said in a statement Monday that they've verified the presence of at least two kittens north of the Caloosahatchee River, which had previously appeared to block their expansion northward. The river empties into the Gulf Coast in southwest Florida.

The kittens are apparently the offspring of a female spotted by trail cameras since 2015 and seen nursing on images earlier this year.

Commission Chairman Brian Yablonski called the birth "a major milestone" for the panther's recovery.