Panther kills family’s pony in Golden Gate Estates

A little boy’s beloved pet pony was killed by a panther in Golden Gate Estates and now his mom is worried about what is next.

Florida Fish and Wildlife say panthers normally live in remote, undeveloped areas. But as both the number of panthers and people living in Southwest Florida grow, so does the chance of a panther encounter.

Courtney Stehling’s pony Maximus was nowhere to be found in the pasture and she knew something was wrong.

“I jumped out of bed raced out here using just our cellphone flashlights to try to find him,” she said.

And eventually, they did.

“I thought maybe it was just a trash bag with some trash coming out of it,” she said.

But she said she knew right away that a panther attacked Maximus and says Florida Fish and Wildlife came out and confirmed it.

Her six-year-old son Wyatt had a special bond with the pony.

“Our horses are all family members,” she said.

FWC reports that this year there have been 20 panther attacks on pets or livestock, killing 27 altogether.

“He was close to 500 pounds and he was all the way up to my hip,” Stehling said.”That’s what I’m scared of is a panther getting a kid,  I’m terrified that will happen.”

FWC says to make our yard less attractive to panthers, you can get an electric fence, mow vegetation that they can hide behind, and get motion-activated lights.

Reporter:Hannah Vogel
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