She pulled a bag of plaster and a jug of water out of the swamp buggy, mixed the ingredients in a bowl, and poured its contents into a depression in the dirt. She wanted to send me home with a plaster cast of a panther print.

Jansen’s favorite memories from her lifetime among panthers, she said, involve watching newborn kittens grown into mature adults, then die natural deaths — all without ever leaving Big Cypress.

“I am glad I’ve lived when I’ve lived,” she told me, “because I think we are in for some rough times.”

Between habitat loss, traffic mortality, declining deer herds, and other maladies, Jansen says she is “extremely concerned that we are going to have a really hard time keeping [the panther] as part of the ecosystem in Florida.”

The plaster dried quickly. Jansen pulled it from the ground and handed it over — a white slab etched with a panther print and dirt stuck between the toes. Someday down the road, that plaster print could be the sad relic of another wild animal future generations won’t get to see.