2017-02-15 / Top News

Should you spot a Florida panther, the FWC wants to know

SPECIAL TO FLORIDA WEEKLY


FWC / COURTESY PHOTO FWC / COURTESY PHOTO With cooler temperatures throughout the Sunshine State, more people are likely to head to the woods to enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking the public to assist with Florida panther research and management by reporting sightings of the large feline to the agency’s panther sightings webpage.

The FWC is interested in photos of panthers or their tracks. Anyone lucky enough to capture this large cat on camera is encouraged to submit the picture and sighting location to www.MyFWC.com/PantherSightings.

“We really value citizen science here at the FWC. People taking pictures of panthers and submitting them to our webpage helps us to better understand panther range,” said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. Information about sightings also helps with the commission’s efforts to better manage human-panther interactions through landowner assistance, outreach and education, he added.

Biologists have been pleased with the number of reports received through the panther sightings webpage over the last few years. Since the project began in 2012, the FWC has received more than 3,700 reports, of which biologists were able to verify 922 based on photos of the animal or its footprints. Most of the reports have come from Southwest Florida, but some panthers have been documented on the east coast near Vero Beach and in central Florida near Orlando.

“We are pleased that so many people are taking the time to share their panther sightings with us. These citizen scientists are providing more ‘eyes in the woods,’ thereby helping FWC monitor the whereabouts of Florida’s state animal,” said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader. Biologists are especially interested in pictures of panthers north of the Caloosahatchee River, which runs from Lake Okeechobee to Fort Myers. There are few sightings or photos of panthers in this part of the state. Currently, the only known breeding population of Florida panthers is south of the river in Southwest Florida.

The panther sightings webpage provides information about the animals, including how to identify them, what to do or not do when you see one and a Google map making it easy to pinpoint the sighting location.

Additional information about Florida panthers, including tips on how to safely coexist with them and the “E-Z Guide to Identify Panther Tracks” can be found at www.FloridaPantherNet.org.

To sign up for email updates about Florida panthers, including mortality and depredation information, visit www.MyFWC.com and click on “Sign up for FWC news updates.” ¦

Physical traits of a Florida panther

>> Weight: 60-160 pounds

>> Shoulder height: 2 feet

>> Body length: 4½ feet

>> Tail length: 3 feet

>> Body color: Tan with a lighter underside, no spots

>> Back of ears: Black

>> Tip of tail: Black

>> (A bobcat is much smaller, more reddish-tan in color and has a shorter tail with white underside at the tip and a white spot at the back of the ears.)

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