Collier Co. is panther country; take precautions
Friday, December 13, 2013
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 772-215-9459; Diane Hirth, 850-251-2130
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want to remind residents of Collier County that they are living in panther country.
Florida panthers are rarely seen by people. Typically, they live in remote, undeveloped areas. But they also can live in fairly rural areas, like eastern Golden Gate Estates, and occasionally they pass through more urbanized areas where people live.
Collier County residents and visitors need to be aware of precautions they should take if they see a panther and how they can help protect panthers by slowing down on highways with panther-related speed zones. People also are asked to report their panther sightings online at MyFWC.com/PantherSightings.
In recent weeks, the FWC received reports of a panther lingering in an area of the Golden Gate Estates west of Collier Boulevard (County Road 951). The area under observation is relatively small and not ideal panther habitat. The frequency of sightings of this particular panther raised concerns among panther biologists, who are attempting to capture it.
“Over the years, the FWC has monitored panthers wandering into urbanized areas, and in all of those cases the panthers were able to find their way back to better habitat,” FWC Panther Team Leader Darrell Land said. “The FWC will continue to monitor the current panther situation closely and is prepared to take any actions deemed necessary.”
If you see a panther, here are some safety tips:
- Keep children close to you. Pick up small children so they don’t panic and run away.
- Avoid crouching or bending over, which can make you look smaller, resembling a prey animal. Make yourself appear larger and intimidating by raising your arms and gesturing.
- Give them space. Florida panthers typically avoid a confrontation. Make sure they have a way to escape.
- Do not run. Running may stimulate a panther’s instinct to chase. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
- If attacked, fight back. Large cats usually try to bite the head or neck, so remain standing.
For more on Florida panthers, including a guide to living with Florida panthers and safe roads for people and panthers, go to MyFWC.com/Panther.
People who see an injured or dead panther should call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. Another option is texting Tip@MyFWC.com (standard usage fees may apply).
Floridians can support the FWC’s research and conservation of the endangered Florida panther by purchasing a Protect the Panther license plate at BuyaPlate.com.