FWC Commissioners Receive Florida Panther Update
By Space Coast Daily // June 19, 2014
PANTHER POPULATION CONTINUES TO GROW
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists released two endangered Florida panthers in 2013.
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists provided an update at the agency’s June Commission meeting in Fort Myers regarding Florida panther research and conservation programs.
Due to the success of panther-conservation efforts over the past 40 years, the panther population has grown significantly since the 1970s, when the panther was federally listed as Endangered.
Biologists have updated their “population range estimate” to reflect an increase to 100-180 adult panthers in Florida. Based on this estimate and habitat availability, panthers likely have reached their carrying capacity south of the Caloosahatchee River.
Historically, panthers ranged throughout Florida and into seven other southeastern states. Today, most panthers are found south of the Caloosahatchee River in Florida. The FWC and partners such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are preparing for the natural expansion of the increasing population.
Because large tracts of land are needed to sustain a healthy panther population, private landowners will be crucial to range expansion.
“Due to the expansive habitat needs of the Florida panther, the continued growth of their population presents a unique challenge to the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy. “As panther range expands, impacts on private landowners will continue to increase.”
With the increasing number of panthers, there also are increasing interactions and conflicts with people. The FWC and partner agencies currently are working with landowners to address the challenges they may face in having panthers on their lands.
“We know panthers can prey upon pets and livestock, and we strive to find solutions that work for people who experience these very real losses,” said Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.
People can help with panther research by reporting sightings at FloridaPantherNet.org. Reporting observations can help FWC biologists address panther conservation needs by identifying the areas used by these large cats.
Florida residents can support panther conservation efforts by purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate, available at BuyAPlate.com. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers.
To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.
For more information on Florida panthers go to FloridaPantherNet.org.