News Releases

FWC to Golden Gate Estates residents: Secure your pets and livestock

News Release

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Media contact: Gabriella B. Ferraro, 772-215-9459

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has confirmed four panther depredations to date this month in the Golden Gate Estates area of Collier County. FWC biologists believe a panther family is roaming around residents' properties looking for food. The female panther has killed chickens and goats. The depredations occurred in areas that did not have predator-proof enclosures for the animals.

The FWC and the Collier County Sheriff's Office advise that these incidents are preventable if pet owners and livestock owners take proper measures.

"Vigilance is the key to protecting people's pets and livestock," said Mark Lotz, a biologist on the FWC's panther team. "These animals need to be secured, especially at night, in predator-proof enclosures that have sturdy walls and a roof."

Lotz says securing livestock and pets will protect them from all predators, such as dogs, coyotes and bobcats, in addition to panthers. Panthers are attracted to prey, such as deer, wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits and armadillos. By feeding deer or other wildlife, people can inadvertently attract panthers. Residents should secure all potential food sources, such as garbage or pet food, which attract wildlife.

Pets that are free-roaming, or pets that are tethered and unfenced, are easy prey for predators, including panthers.

"Where practical, put chickens, goats, hogs or other livestock in enclosed structures at night," Lotz said. "Electric fencing can be an effective predator deterrent."

Florida panthers were listed as endangered in 1967 and are protected under both federal and state laws. The panther population declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s. Today there are about 100 panthers in Florida. Human-panther encounters are occurring more often because of human encroachment near panther habitat and an increase in the panther population.

According to FWC biologists, it is important to remember that a panther sighting does not necessarily constitute a threat to human safety. The FWC recommends that anyone who spots a panther should enjoy the experience from a safe distance or from inside a structure. Following all of the precautions outlined by the FWC will help protect pets and livestock.

"Removing the offending panther is not a solution. If the attractant remains, another panther will move in," Lotz said. "Protecting your investment is the best solution for you, your animals and the endangered panther."

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 FloridaPantherNet.org. The purchase of panther specialty license plates helps fund panther research and management. Visit buyaplate.com for more information.



FWC Facts:
Within 24 hours of hatching, young whooping cranes can follow their parents away from the nest. Together, they forage for plants, insects, snakes, frogs and small animals.

Learn More at AskFWC