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For immediate release: September 7, 2011
Contact: Diane Hirth, 850-251-2130
Efforts to recover the Florida panther population are showing success with a steady rise in numbers to an estimated 100 to 160 adults of this federally endangered species living in South Florida, according to a report presented Sept. 7 to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“Panthers are very difficult to count, but there is no question that conservation efforts have reversed the downward spiral toward extinction of this imperiled species,” said Kipp Frohlich, head of the Imperiled Species Management Section at the FWC.
Last year the FWC revised its official estimate upward to as many as 160 adults in the panther’s primary range of South Florida. At any given time the total number of panthers may vary, because the estimate does not include the addition of kittens or losses due to a variety of causes. In addition, there are an unknown small number of male panthers dispersed into Central or North Florida. The FWC is working with partners to develop better methods to count panthers and assess the statewide population.
In the 1970s, the panther population was estimated to be as few as 20 animals in the wild and showed signs of inbreeding. In 1995, the state, in cooperation with federal agencies, embarked on a genetic-restoration project attempting to avert extinction of the Florida panther. Eight young female Texas pumas were released into South Florida to increase the genetic health of the Florida stock. This conservation effort was intended to mimic the genetic exchange that once occurred naturally between panther populations in the Southeast and pumas in East Texas. It proved successful and resulted in improved panther productivity and health, and a growing population.
The progress made in conserving Florida’s official state animal appears to be having an unintended consequence: livestock losses to cattle ranchers. Panthers normally prey on white-tailed deer, wild hogs and other game. Yet, last year the FWC began receiving reports of panthers preying on calves.
Southwest Florida cattle ranches typically are spread over tens of thousands of acres, with cows and calves dispersed on a range that includes excellent and essential panther habitat.
“Partnering with Florida’s cattle ranching industry is an important part of our long-term panther recovery strategy,” said Nick Wiley, the FWC’s executive director. “The history of Florida cattle ranching is a rich one, and the state’s cattle operations are among the largest in the country. Ranching is a critically important economic engine. It is absolutely essential to keep ranching viable in Florida, not only because of its economic value, food productivity and its place in our cultural heritage, but also because it provides valuable habitat for many types of wildlife, including panthers.”
Speaking from a cattleman’s perspective, Russell Priddy said, “Florida cattle ranchers understand that a balance needs to be reached between protecting endangered panthers and addressing the financial impacts of losing calves to panther predation. We will do our part, and we are expecting that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be responsive to our situation.”
The FWC is addressing conflicts between panthers and human activities in several ways.
A $25,000 fund is being proposed by the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to compensate ranchers who lose calves to panther depredation. The FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services are working with ranchers, elected officials and conservation groups to figure out the best way to initiate this program. It is viewed as a possible first step towards more comprehensive and effective long-term solutions.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) will initiate a cooperative research project this fall to learn more about the panther’s impact on cattle ranching by monitoring calf survival. This research, which is being funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and IFAS, is designed to provide scientific data on which factors are contributing to calf deaths on these ranches.
The FWC is also directing resources to this project. Agency staff will study individual panthers that are on or near the same ranches where the calf studies will be conducted and look at panther prey selection to determine the role that calves play in the panther’s diet.
Homeowners in Southwest Florida, and Collier County in particular, have also seen an increase in cases of panthers killing pets or backyard livestock such as goats. Protecting these animals from panthers and other predators requires taking basic safety measures that have proved to be effective. The FWC recommends that people living in panther country make sure their pets are sheltered at night inside a house or kennel and small animals like goats are put in barns or pens with roofs. Installing electric fences around animal pens is another useful deterrent against panthers.
Most Floridians or visitors to the state will never get to see the reclusive long-tailed cat that grows to 6 feet or longer. They can attend the first annual Florida Panther Festival on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at North Collier Regional Park in Naples. The purpose of the free festival is to raise awareness of the endangered Florida panther while promoting safe coexistence of people, pets, livestock and panthers. To learn more about the panther, go to www.floridapanthernet.org.
On August 24th the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a former Georgia resident was sentenced for unlawful take of a Florida panther. Read the USFWS new release here.
First Annual Florida Panther Festival Sheds Light on Issues Facing Florida’s State Animal
Family Friendly Event Takes Place October 29 in Naples, Fla.
Naples, Fla. (August 23, 2011) – The first annual Florida Panther Festival on October 29, 2011 at North Collier Regional Park in Naples, Florida will shed light on the plight of the endangered Florida panther through interactive activities about the Florida panther’s life and habitat. Activities include presentations by panther biologists, a Living with Wildlife Pavilion, interactive walks, fun and educational activities for children, livestock pen demonstration, live bluegrass music, food vendors, information from various conservation agencies and organizations in panther territory, and much more. The Festival is free of charge. The previous day, Friday, October 28, a variety of field trips are available into areas in southwest Florida where panthers roam. Various fees apply to field trips.
The Living with Wildlife Pavilion will provide area residents proactive steps that can be taken to protect pets and livestock on private property from any wildlife. The Pavilion will be staffed by panther biologists and will include tools biologists use to monitor panthers, capture videos, demonstration livestock pen, handouts, and the popular Adopt-a-Panther program. The sounds of bluegrass music will enliven the Festivalwith live performances by two bands, Frontline Bluegrass and the BugTussle Ramblers. Fascinating presentations by panther biologists and panther research team members will take place throughout the day. Presentations will include secrets of panther capture techniques, why biologists track panthers, how orchids play a role in panther habitat health, and even what it's like to hold a Florida panther kitten. There will also be face painting, children’s games, and food vendors throughout the day.
On-site adventures at the Festivalinclude the “Walk the Panther Mile”. Rangers from Big Cypress National Preserve will guide a one mile walk on the trail at North Collier Regional Park. Along the way, you’ll discover interesting facts about Florida panthers, learn about their habitat, and look for tracks and other signs of wildlife at the park. You’ll also meet one of the Preserve’s panther biologists and hear about the research they’re doing in the Preserve. The free two-hour educational walk requires advance registration and takes place four times on Saturday. For information or reservations, visit www.FloridaPantherFestival.com. Free Panther Tales walks will also take place throughout the day and are open to everyone first-come, first-serve. Panther Tales will be short, leisurely walks along the park’s trails to look for signs of wildlife and learn about Florida panthers.
"Our goal is to hold this free event every year for families and visitors to celebrate the Florida panther and become aware of responsible actions for safe coexistence of panthers with communities, livestock and pets" says Ben Nottingham, Refuge Manager of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. “Attendees will learn about the issues facing panthers living in the wild and also about the research conducted by various agencies that help the panther’s existence in southwest Florida.”
Friday field trips require registration. Choices include a guided swamp buggy tour and hike at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, a bird rookery swamp trail hike at the CREW Land & Water Trust’s public hiking trails, an extensive swamp buggy ride through Big Cypress National Preserve, a guided tour of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s boardwalk, and guided bicycle tours through Picayune Strand State Forest and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Various costs apply to the field trips. For more information on the field trips and registration, visit www.FloridaPantherFestival.com.
If your organization is interested in supporting the Florida Panther Festival, a multi-partner effort to expand Florida panther awareness and support in our community, sponsorship opportunities start at just $100 and are tax deductible. If you’re interested in supporting Florida panther conservation and education by volunteering at the Festival, there are many opportunities available. For more information, visit www.FloridaPantherFestival.comor call 239-353-8442 ext. 229.
The Florida Panther Festival is a collaborative effort by a variety of organizations including the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Collier County Parks and Recreation; the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau; Audubon Society; Defenders of Wildlife; Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; National Park Service; and Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge.
FLORIDA PANTHER FESTIVAL EVENT LISTING:
Florida Panther Festival
October 29, 2011
North Collier Regional Park
15000 Livingston Road
Naples, Florida 34119
10am – 4pm
239-353-8442 ext. 229
Learn about the endangered Florida panther, its habitat and the issues facing the species’ survival through activities including fun and educational activities for children, presentations on panther tracking telemetry, talks with panther biologists and research capture team members, an interactive hike, demonstration livestock pen, and information about living in panther territory in the Living with Wildlife Pavilion at the first annual Florida Panther Festival. The Festival will also include live music from the bands Frontline Bluegrass and the Bugtussle Ramblers, arts and crafts, and food vendors. Optional field trips into panther territory are available on Friday, October 28 – various fees apply to field trips. The October 29 Festival is free.
Florida Panther Information:
The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is the last subspecies of Puma still surviving in the eastern United States. Historically occurring throughout the southeastern U.S., today the Florida panther is restricted to less than 5% of its historic range in one breeding population in south Florida. The panther population, while increased from a low of 12-20 adults in the 1980s, is still facing numerous threats to its population. With an estimate of between just 100-160 adults, the Florida panther remains one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
In 1982 the students of Florida elected the Florida panther as the official state animal of Florida. A large predator that can grow more than six feet in length, panthers play an important role in the ecosystem. As the top predator in its south Florida habitat, the panther is a necessary element in regulating the food chain. Predatory hunting by panthers helps keep the numbers of its prey--deer, wild hogs, and raccoons--in balance. Florida panthers were persecuted to near-extinction out of fear and misunderstanding (folklore refers to them as "catamounts"). The Florida panther was listed on the federal endangered species list in1967, and on the state of Florida's endangered list in 1973. Although hunting is now illegal, loss of natural habitat means preservation of this unique animal will depend on strict management and public support.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida Ecological Services Office
1339 20th Street
Vero Beach FL 32960-3559
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Ken Warren
July 12, 2011 (772) 562-3909, ext. 323
Release #011-2011 firstname.lastname@example.org
SW FLORIDA AD AGENCY DONATES DIGITAL BILLBOARD SPACE IN LEE COUNTY
TO HELP CONSERVATION GROUPS WITH FLORIDA PANTHER RECOVERY EFFORTS
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Hopefully, motorists driving along US-41 in Lee County will notice a cautionary message on a digital billboard asking them to slow down and watch for endangered Florida panthers as they drive through southwest Florida.
The billboard’s message is meant to remind or inform motorists that vehicle collisions are among the leading causes of panther deaths. As of July 12, seven Florida panthers have met untimely ends on roads and highways in southwest Florida this calendar year.
The billboard space was donated by Lamar Advertising. The billboard, which will run indefinitely, can be seen from US-41, just south of Alico Road.
“Over 50,000 sets of eyes will see this billboard every day,” said Lamar’s southwest Florida sales manager Vinny Fazio. “We’re proud to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reach as many motorists as possible with this message of caution.”
The billboard features an image of a panther running across a road in Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. The image was taken by Lee County Parks and Recreation Land Stewardship Coordinator Bob Repenning.
“I photographed this panther during the day, in late-morning,” Repenning said. “It goes to show you never know when a panther may appear. Drivers must be alert at all times.”
The panther population has grown five-fold since the 1980s, when its numbers dwindled to 20-30. Its increase to a current estimate of 100-160 adult panthers is a success story, but one tempered with the knowledge that an increasing population means a greater chance for vehicle collisions.
Note - go back to News and Highlights and click on News Photos to find the image.
Increasing genetic variability in Florida panthers was an important step toward achieving recovery goals. The methodologies and lessons learned during this process may have implications for other endangered species around the world. The results of this process were published in the September issue of the journal Science. This white paper explains how genetic restoration helped the Florida panther.