News Releases

Panther biologists, officer honored by Florida Wildlife Federation

News Release

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Media contact: Brandon Basino, 727-896-8626; Carli Segelson, 561-882-5703

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) panther biologists Mark Lotz, Marc Criffield and Dave Onorato recently received the Florida Wildlife Federation’s (FWF) 2014 Wildlife Conservationists of the Year award at the FWF’s 77th Annual Conservation Awards Banquet in Naples.

Also honored by the FWF, as its Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, was FWC Officer Lee Lawshe. He was recognized for his exceptional performance and attitude throughout the past year. In addition to completing many resource cases, Lawshe rescued a man missing for days in a swamp, apprehended a suspect during a manhunt and assisted with a murder investigation.

The panther biologists were recognized by the FWF for contributing greatly to the research, management and conservation of the panther population. They have a combined 36 years of experience in efforts to conserve the endangered Florida panther.

“I’m not sure there is any one greatest achievement,” said Lotz. “Genetic restoration (via female Texas puma introductions) probably had the greatest impact on reversing the downward population trend, but this would have been for naught without the construction of wildlife underpasses and habitat protection.”

Criffield attributes some of their success to public awareness.

“I am inspired by the number of Floridians who are genuinely interested in panther conservation efforts,” Criffield said. “Over 500,000 students from across Florida voted to make the panther our state animal. That’s pretty cool.”

The FWC offers plenty of ways for people to help its researchers and other agencies conserve the Florida panther. To learn more about our state animal and the FWC’s research, or to report panther sightings, visit To purchase a panther license plate, visit and click on the Cat Tag icon; and to learn more about the upcoming 4th annual Panther Festival, visit

FWC Facts:
Wildlife viewing in Florida supports 44,623 full- and part-time jobs.

Learn More at AskFWC