The FWC approved a panther position paper at its September 2015 Commission meeting to provide strategic direction to staff moving forward with panther management and conservation efforts. Florida panther conservation has reached major milestones and is an impressive success story. This position paper reaffirms the FWC’s commitment to work with partners to conserve and protect panthers.
News and Highlights
Keep pets and livestock from becoming prey to wildlife
If you are like most Americans, your pet is a beloved member of the family. Having your pet injured or killed by a wild animal can be a tragic and traumatic event.
Reports of negative interactions with Florida wildlife are on the rise, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to remind Florida residents and visitors to protect their pets and livestock from wildlife depredations. Florida is unique among states in the eastern U.S. in that most of the native predators still roam here. This includes panthers, bears, alligators and bobcats. Many negative interactions with Florida wildlife can be prevented by taking the appropriate precautions.
Safety measures should be taken to protect pets like dogs and cats, by keeping them indoors at night, on a leash or in an outdoor predator-proof pen.
Cats are a particularly easy target since there are a variety of predators that prey on them, including panthers and coyotes as well as bobcats and even dogs. Keeping your cat inside not only protects it from becoming prey but it also prevents it from preying on songbirds and other native wildlife.
People should also take necessary precautions to properly shelter animals such as goats, sheep, calves, pigs, donkeys and poultry from wildlife depredations. Livestock can be protected by keeping them in a secure fenced enclosure with a roof, especially at night. Electric fencing is also an effective deterrent to prevent depredations on domestic animals.
Coyotes are well documented throughout Florida and live in all 67 counties. They are extremely adaptable and are found in rural, suburban and even urban areas around the state.
Both coyotes and bears are attracted to a variety of food sources such as unsecured trash, bird and wildlife feeders and pet food left outside. However, because bears are opportunistic feeders, depredations of pets or livestock are more often caused by more active predators such as panthers or coyotes.
While panthers don’t eat trash and pet food, they will eat the animals that are attracted to these items. Panthers are typically found in southwest Florida, but they are starting to be reported with more frequency in other parts of the state.
“We are asking people to proactively take precautions by removing attractants and protecting and securing their pets and small livestock from predators,” said Kipp Frohlich, FWC’s Deputy Division Director of Habitat and Species Conservation. “By taking these actions today, people can help discourage panthers, coyotes and other predators from repeatedly coming back into their yard or community looking for easy prey.”
When feeding outdoor domestic animals, be sure to only put out enough food for the animal to eat immediately, and then remove any uneaten food as soon as possible. Keep all food sources stored in a secure location when not in use to reduce the likelihood of conflicts between your animals and bears and other wildlife.
For technical assistance regarding coyotes near your home or in your neighborhood, contact the nearest FWC regional office by going to MyFWC.com/Contact and clicking on “Regional offices.” Additional information on coyotes can be found by going to MyFWC.com/Wildlife and clicking on “Living with Wildlife” then “Coyotes.”
To learn how to reduce conflicts with bears, visit MyFWC.com/Bear and click on “Bear Wise Communities” on the left side of the page. If you observe bears exhibiting threatening behavior, report it immediately to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
If you experience a panther depredation or have a panther situation that requires immediate assistance, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. Because panthers are a federally protected species, and they represent a potential human safety risk, the FWC investigates reports of panther depredations, usually visiting the site to gather evidence. With home owner permission, the FWC will often set up a remote camera to determine if the panther is returning to the same site repeatedly.
For more information about how to protect people, pets and livestock from panthers and other predators, visit FloridaPantherNet.org and click on “Living in Panther Country.”
To see if panther depredations are occurring in your area, visit FloridaPantherNet.org, click on “Panther Pulse” and scroll down to “Depredations.” You can sign up to receive panther information, including depredation email updates, by simply clicking on the red envelope on any page of MyFWC.com and selecting “Florida Panther” under the “Wildlife/Managed Species” section.