The endangered panther’s numbers have been thriving in southwest Florida in recent decades thanks to diligent conservation efforts and public support, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). However, officials at FWC have no plans to remove the panther from the endangered species list at this time, and Florida commissioners will vote on a draft policy paper regarding the next step for panther rehabilitation this September. The original draft of this policy was put forward this June, but was set aside for the time to allow the FWC to review data and give thorough input regarding the panther’s endangerment level.
ENDANGERED STATUS OF PANTHERS IN QUESTION
The FWC recognizes that panther numbers are improving and states that it will reflect on federal criteria regarding the panther’s endangered species status. The new version of the draft stresses the importance of protecting the panther’s natural habitat — specifically southwestern Florida — where most of the panthers are currently concentrated. However, the federal objective has been to work towards building panther populations beyond this area alone. The policy paper seeks to determine what specifically the state agency will be responsible for versus the federal government regarding panther protection and recovery.
CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
The species was officially listed as endangered in 1967. At the time, there were a mere 30 adult documented panthers living; current numbers suggest that there are 180 adult panthers in Florida population.
While a great improvement, Florida conservationists say that panther rehabilitation efforts are still absolutely crucial. Some Florida citizens are concerned that growing numbers in the panther population has led to an increase in safety issues. However, the FWC stresses the importance of public awareness in guaranteeing that the Florida panther remains alive and well.
CONFLICT OF INTERESTS
A successful increase in panther numbers naturally results in more “conflicts” with the human population, says FWC deputy director Kipp Frohlich. Claims that the current panther population is a burden to residents due to conflicts such as road accidents and loss of livestock were redacted when the draft was revised for the upcoming vote. For now, the FWC hopes to continue efforts in broadening the species’ population’s numbers, while not necessarily expanding into new territory. The next step for the Florida panther relies on next month’s vote.