Panthers at a Crossroads: The Want for Coexistence
With an estimated 120 to 230 adults remaining within the wild in south Florida, Florida panthers are probably the most endangered mammals within the nation. Defenders of Wildlife’s efforts to assist the Florida panther survive began 4 many years in the past once we lobbied for the species’ inclusion underneath the federal Endangered Species Act. We’ve got been preventing for panthers ever since — to safe and shield the massive interconnected tracts of untamed land they should increase their vary northward, to foster understanding of those wide-ranging and secretive predators and to handle a number one reason for panther deaths: collisions with autos whereas trying to cross roads. In recognition of our longstanding dedication to panther restoration, Defenders serves because the conservation consultant on the federal Florida Panther Restoration Implementation Crew.
We’ve made loads of progress during the last 40 years — within the 1970s biologists weren’t even positive we nonetheless had Florida panthers left. After which a couple of have been found in south Florida, and it’s estimated that the inhabitants could have dipped to 12 to 20 people at its lowest level. Regardless that the inhabitants has grown steadily since a genetic restoration program was undertaken within the 1990s, it’s nonetheless small and endangered, largely due to loss and degradation of habitat.
Coexisting with Florida Panthers
At present, the Florida panther is at a crossroads: in the previous few years, biologists have documented feminine panthers and kittens north of the Caloosahatchee River for the primary time in additional than 40 years, a serious milestone in panther restoration. However, on the identical time, Florida has turn into the third most populous state within the nation, bringing accelerating improvement and new roads. The Florida panther as soon as ranged all through the southeastern United States however at the moment occupies lower than 5 % of its historic vary. With the intention to hold the panther on a path to restoration, we have to share the panorama with this massive carnivore and we should keep away from and scale back conflicts that inevitably happen as individuals and panthers turn into extra quite a few throughout the identical area. By means of partnerships, schooling, analysis assist, public outreach, and advocacy, Defenders is working to foster understanding of Florida panthers and to assist individuals share the panorama with these endangered predators. We launched our Florida panther coexistence program in 2004 to reply to a rise of panther depredations on livestock and pets.
© fStop Basis
As a part of Defenders’ “Yr of Coexistence,” March is concentrated on the Florida panther. Faculty youngsters chosen the Florida panther because the official state animal in 1982, and the Florida legislature designated the third Saturday in March as “Save the Florida Panther Day,” which is March 16 this 12 months. The Florida Panther Nationwide Wildlife Refuge, established to guard the panther and its habitat in 1989, hosts an annual Open Home to rejoice Save the Florida Panther Day. The refuge hosts actions akin to orchid walks, swamp buggy excursions, panther displays, and different talks and classes.
Defenders may be very busy right now of 12 months participating in outreach and offering technical help to householders who reside in or close to panther nation. Our Coexistence Coordinator and volunteers assist improve consciousness and thru displays and different occasions, we have interaction with hundreds of adults and youngsters. South of the Caloosahatchee River, we take part in festivals and different outreach occasions, a few of which draw tens of hundreds of individuals. North of the river, Defenders expanded our panther outreach to the areas the place females are starting to disperse. In 2018, we gave greater than 20 displays attended by greater than 1,000 individuals from environmental golf equipment, householders’ associations, rotary golf equipment, and AARP. We additionally hosted a Florida Panther Outreach Workshop for greater than 45 members in April at Archbold Organic Station to debate panther vary enlargement and put together activists to assist with outreach north of the river.
Over time, we’ve hosted instructional workshops, initiated demonstration initiatives, and distributed supplies in rural residential areas on accountable house owner practices for safely coexisting with panthers. We’ve recruited and skilled volunteers for the Panther Citizen Help Taskforce, a bunch of citizen scientists and activists who share details about panthers and defending pets and livestock. Since establishing our predator-resistant livestock safety enclosure program, we’ve helped fund and assemble greater than 30 enclosures to guard individuals, pets, livestock, and panthers. In 2011, we helped provoke the annual Florida Panther Competition, an occasion now hosted by the Naples Zoo to construct consciousness and acceptance of panthers.
Giant landowners, a few of whom personal tens of hundreds of acres, have additionally skilled battle with panthers that sometimes prey upon calves on cattle ranches. As a part of the Florida Panther Restoration Crew, we work with these landowners to guard giant interconnected areas of habitat and increase acceptance for sharing the panorama with panthers. To cut back battle, we work to enhance two federal applications administered by the U.S. Division of Agriculture: one compensates landowners for loss to a federally protected species and the opposite supplies funding to landowners who keep their land in ways in which profit panthers (e.g. offering good habitat and wild prey).
Predator-resistant enclosures (© Lisa Ostberg)
We additionally work to assist the wide-ranging panther cross harmful highway segments. The most important human-cause of panther mortality is being struck by motor autos as panthers journey nice distances in the hunt for territory, mates, and meals. In 2018, 26 panthers have been killed whereas crossing roads. As a part of the Transportation SubTeam of the Florida Panther Restoration Crew, we helped develop the Southwest Florida Panther Hotspots report and maps to assist information resolution making and funding allocation for wildlife crossings and different instruments to permit secure passage throughout harmful highway segments. We additionally offered intensive enter to Florida Division of Transportation on revisions to its Wildlife Crossing Tips. For a few years, we’ve been concerned in facilitating the set up of wildlife crossings and slower velocity zones and advocating for conservation-minded transportation planning that considers the risks motorcar visitors and habitat fragmentation current for panthers and different wildlife.
Panthers are slowly recovering from the brink of extinction due to the Endangered Species Act and profitable conservation applications. Their inhabitants is rising and they’re increasing their vary. However the identical improve and enlargement could be stated concerning the human inhabitants in Florida, and at a higher price. As human communities encroach on the wild lands that stay, persons are coming into nearer and nearer contact with wildlife just like the Florida panther. Defenders acknowledges that serving to individuals coexist with the Florida panther is important to constructing the acceptance and assist wanted to save lots of the species. We’re pleased with all that we’ve completed up to now, and we’re optimistic concerning the panther’s future in Florida.
Yr of Coexistence
To honor our unimaginable wildlife, Defenders has declared 2019 the Yr of Coexistence. March focuses on Florida panther coexistence!defenders.org
Coexisting with Florida Panthers
Saving Florida Panthers
Secure roads for individuals and panthers
Information to Recognizing the Florida Panther, Its Monitor and Signal
Defenders’ Predator-Resistant Livestock Safety Enclosure
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