News Releases

Collier residents reminded about living with panthers

News Release

Thursday, October 07, 2010

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

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Panther Interagency Response Team confirmed a recent incident involving a Florida panther on a property in the Golden Gate Estates area of Collier County. The human-panther interaction is classified as an "incident," in accordance with the Florida Panther Response Plan - the guiding document state and federal agencies follow when dealing with human-panther interactions.

On Oct. 4, a Golden Gate Estates resident reported to the FWC that he heard growling coming from an adjacent property in the early morning hours. The resident looked in the direction of the growling and saw a panther on the other side of the fence. The resident backed away, and the panther remained at the fence.

Upon investigation, FWC panther biologist Mark Lotz confirmed that a panther family had killed some of the resident's livestock over the weekend, and the panther the resident saw was standing at the site where recent prey was consumed. FWC biologists believe the growling is natural behavior for a panther defending its kill or kittens, and not a public-safety concern.

After concluding the panther(s) had returned for additional prey, the FWC set up cameras around the property and continued to monitor the situation. One camera captured images of an adult female and two 13-month-old kittens near the property. In the meantime, the resident made modifications to the existing fencing around his livestock to deter panthers.

The FWC advises that these incidents are preventable if pet owners and livestock owners take proper measures. FWC biologists believe that until the attractants are removed or secured, the panthers will return to the area for food.

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

Lotz said 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 have been listed as endangered since 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 at least 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 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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Female alligators rarely exceed 9.5 feet in length, but males can grow much larger, up to 14 feet long and more than 1,000 pounds.

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