Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Florida panther encounters on the rise

Reported by: Dan Shaffer
Last Update: 12/23 12:45 pm

Florida panther (USFWS) TAMPA, FL -- A report released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows sightings of Florida's endangered panthers are still rare, but close encounters with the big cats are becoming more common.

The latest report, which you can read by clicking here, tracked panther activity between July of 2007 through June of 2008, and describes four kinds of panther interactions with humans: sightings, encounters, incidents, and depredations.

The most common "conflict" is depredation, where a panther kills or tries to kill domestic livestock or pets. Biologists confirmed ten incidents of depredation in which eleven animals were killed including five goats, five sheep, and one fallow deer. A goat, a llama and a dog were injured by panthers. Two years ago, only five depredation incidents were reported. The year before that, there were none reported.

The report also found the number of people encountering panthers in the wild has increased steadily over the past several years. Two panthers were seen in trees and two others were spotted on boardwalks either in or near the Everglades National Park.

In all those cases, the panthers quickly ran away. But one incident was reported where a researcher, working in an area closed to the public, was followed for several minutes by a panther while hiking on a trail in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are only 80 to 100 adult Florida panthers remaining in the wild. The notoriously elusive cats are confined to wilderness areas around the Everglades in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.


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