Two of the wild cats die within a week, leading to more concerns about management and protection of the endangered species
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Two more rare and endangered Florida panthers died last week, for a total of 12 mortalities this year.
So far, 19 panther kittens have been born in 2012, including litters with three and four kittens documented just in the past few weeks in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Some conservation advocates said they’re troubled by the trend toward more deaths resulting from panthers fighting each other, suggesting that the wild cats are running out of room.
A Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, Public Employees for Environmental Ethics, was quick to point a finger at federal land managers after the latest deaths, charging that various resource decisions in the area are contributing to the mortality.
“Individually, these panther deaths are difficult to avoid but collectively they are the unavoidable result of official dereliction of duty,” said PEER director Jeff Ruch.
The organization is engaged in a number of legal actions to protect the remaining shrinking panther habitat. These actions seek to overturn decisions by federal agencies, principally the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
The group said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service needs to designate and protect the critical habitat panthers need for recovery, and that federal and local land managers must find the wherewithal to block sprawling new developments that are carving panther territory into ever-smaller chunks.
“These and other official actions are creating conditions which are both unsustainable and inhumane for the Florida panther,” Ruch said.
According to PEER, federal agencies are suppressing science to try and create the illusion that panthers are recovering.
“Soon, the only place the Florida panther will be seen is in a zoo or adorning a personalized license plate,” Ruch said.
Additionally, Ruch said a recent decision to allow more off-road vehicle use in the Addition Lands of Big Cypress National Preserve is another negative impact.
The total number of Florida panthers remaining in the wild is estimated to range between 100 and 120. However, the loss of more than two panthers a month in 2012 coupled with the deaths of 25 in 2011 may be a bad sign for this iconic predator which been listed as an endangered species for more than 40 years.
The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission website summarizes panther habitat needs:
“Panthers need lots of land… The home range of male panthers is about 520 square km. That’s about 400 times as large as Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The female’s range is about 195 km. That’s about 150 times as large as the Magic Kingdom!”
Background (Links provided by PEER):