Biologists to capture panther suspected in recent Collier County calf depredations
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
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
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.