Hundreds of sightings of panthers roaming wild in Florida have been reported by the public to the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website launched a year ago, the agency said in a news statement.
As of August 2013, the public had submitted 790 sightings to MyFWC.com/PantherSightings, where people can record when and where they saw a panther or its tracks, FWC said.
“Only 12 percent of the reports included a photograph and could be evaluated by Commission biologists. Of those with photos, the majority were confirmed as panthers. Other animals identified by FWC biologists were bobcats, foxes, coyotes, dogs, house cats and even a monkey. Most often the reported animal or tracks belonged to a bobcat, when it was not a panther.”
Verified reports were largely confined to southwest Florida, a well-documented breeding range for panthers in the state. There also were several verified sightings in south central Florida.
“The public’s willingness to share what they have seen or collected on game cameras is incredibly helpful and shows us where panthers presumably are roaming in Florida,” said Darrell Land, the FWC’s panther team manager.
“As the population of this endangered species grows, the FWC expects more Florida panthers to be seen in areas of the state where they have not lived for decades,” Land added. “To properly plan and manage for the expansion of the panther’s range in Florida, information about where the panthers are is vital.” (Read the related post Breeding success for Florida’s wild panthers.)
The agency estimates the Florida panther population to be 100 to 160 adults and yearlings, a figure that does not include panther kittens. As recently as the 1970s, the Florida panther was close to disappearing, with as few as 20 animals in the wild.
This post was based on press materials sent by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Learn more about Florida panthers at www.FloridaPantherNet.org.
David Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.
He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.
Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.