News Releases

Biologists to capture panther suspected in recent Collier County calf depredations

News Release

Friday, October 29, 2010

Media contact: Gabriella Ferraro (FWC), 772-215-9459; Ken Warren (USFWS), 772-643-4407

In the wake of recent calf depredations on ranches in eastern Collier County, a team of experts will attempt to capture and collar the suspected male Florida panther in the area where the depredations occurred as early as Monday.

Working in close cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will examine the panther and conduct a health evaluation.  Provided the panther is healthy, it will be released in a remote location in Collier County.  The capture and relocation is a form of aversive conditioning aimed at creating an unpleasant association for this panther near the area where depredations have occurred. Other forms of aversive conditioning may be used by the biologists to deter the panther from returning to the site of the depredations.

A number of calves were taken by Florida panthers over the past several weeks within the Sunniland area.  Most recently, a calf with head injuries indicative of a panther depredation was discovered this week. The calf later died of its wounds.  FWC investigators found male Florida panther tracks near the site of two of the depredations.

Under the terms of the Interagency Florida Panther Response Plan, the FWC, the USFWS and the National Park Service are the primary agencies responsible for establishing the procedures for responding to human-panther interactions and depredations in a timely and effective manner.  These partners are making every effort to work with cattle ranchers and the ranching community. This type of depredation is a relatively new occurrence. Past panther depredations have involved animals such as goats kept in residential yards. In those instances, people have been largely successful at deterring residential depredations by securing their animals at night in protective enclosures. However, it is more difficult to protect large herds of cattle, because they roam over hundreds of acres.

"Ranchers in Southwest Florida are extremely important partners in panther conservation," said Paul Souza, field supervisor of the USFWS's South Florida Ecological Services Office. "We're following the protocols established in the response plan by taking actions that we hope will deter future depredations and ensure public safety and the conservation and recovery of the Florida panther."

The FWC and its partners have worked with the ranchers, who are allowing the panther team to capture and collar the panther on their land.

"We're extremely grateful to these landowners for working closely with us on this situation," said FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley. "We're committed to working with these ranchers, because they have taken good care of our fish and wildlife resources for many generations on the lands they own. Their continued support is critical to the overall success of panther management and conservation in Florida."

The Florida panther is one of the rarest large mammals in the United States.  The population declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s. Today, biologists believe there are at least 100 adult panthers in Florida. Human-panther encounters are occurring more often because of human encroachment near panther habitat and an increase in the panther population. Conflicts with humans raise issues that require careful consideration and action to conserve the species while the safety of the public remains paramount.

The panther was listed as endangered in 1967 and is protected under both the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Florida law. Under state and federal laws and regulations, panther management and protection are the primary responsibility of the USFWS and the FWC.  The Florida panther is protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16USC1531-1544) (ESA) and Florida Administrative Code (FAC) 68A-27.  The National Park Service is responsible for coordinating panther management on NPS lands.

To report panther threats, pets or livestock lost to a panther, or an injured or dead panther, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). For more information on how to live safely with panthers, download the "Living with Panthers" brochure at www.FloridaPantherNet.org. The purchase of panther specialty license plates helps fund panther research and management. Visit www.buyaplate.com for more information.



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