By Daily News staff
Friday, May 11, 2007
Another casualty of the Florida Legislature's penny-pinching ways: a new panther public-relations position stationed in Naples.
Gov. Charlie Crist had proposed the position in his first budget submittal to the Legislature. The document had set aside $231,309 for a panther PR campaign, a total that included $37,567 for salary and benefits and $26,211 for a new vehicle.
The staff member would have worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The proposal reflected a growing anxiety among biologists that as both the panther and human populations expand in Southwest Florida, encounters between the two will escalate — in number and in severity.
In 2006, state and federal wildlife officials responded to six incidents involving panthers, up from two during the previous year. Eight of the endangered creatures have been struck and killed on Florida highways so far this year. There are believed to be 80-100 left, all but a handful of them squeezed into the swamps and forests of Southwest Florida.