14 March 2011 Making Tracks: Florida Panther Week Kicks Off Posted by: Caitlin Leutwiler | 2 comments | Share: Daylight isn’t the only thing we’re saving this week! Yesterday kicked off the beginning of Save the Florida Panther Week, a seven day span dedicated to learning more about the threats facing big cats in the Sunshine State, and what YOU can do to help them. Background and Threats: Florida panthers historically ranged throughout the southeastern United States, but early persecution, hunting and continuing loss of habitat has relegated them to the southern tip of Florida. Narrowly avoiding extinction in the 1950s, recovering panther populations are small but growing, and now number somewhere between 100-160 cats. Habitat loss continues to be the greatest danger to rebuilding panther populations today. A wide-ranging animal, an adult male can travel as many as 200 miles and still call the area home. In Florida, increased development means less room to roam for these big cats, and makes it more difficult for panthers to find prey, mates and suitable denning sites. Collisions with vehicles is another major threat to panthers throughout the state. Last year, 16 of the 23 known panther deaths were attributed to road fatalities. Of the eight deaths that have already occurred in 2011, at least four of them were the results of run-ins with traffic. Bad Omen or Fair Warning? Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had the sad task of declaring the eastern cougar, a relative of the Florida panther, extinct. A once-common big cat that roamed the eastern forests of the United States and helped maintain the diversity of its ecosystems, the eastern cougar had been on the endangered species list since 1973. Wildlife officials had questioned its existence for some time, but on March 2 made the tough decision to officially mark its disappearance. Will the Florida panther meet a similar fate? Not if Defenders has anything to do with it! We will continue working to protect this iconic animal until its numbers are once again stable and healthy. YOU can help protect Florida panthers too. From slowing down on the road to storing garbage responsibly, we can all take steps to live safely alongside the big cats of America’s southeast. Learn more: This year, people are celebrating Save the Florida Panther Week all across the Sunshine State. Click here for more information. Live in panther country? See how YOU can work to reduce the effects of human activities on recovering panther populations. 2 Responses to “Making Tracks: Florida Panther Week Kicks Off” Linda French March 16th, 2011 I lived in Florida for 10 years, and loved it. As an active wildlife protector while in the USA, and now in Canada, I find it so sad that we have allowed this magnificent animal to reach this point. Florida is over developed, and not doing enough to protect the habitat. When I was in Florida and drove on roads with panther crossing warnings, I would get passed by 98% of the vehicles on the road, going way over the required limit. These people have become so disconnected with nature is saddens me, to see that they just do not care. Defenders of Wildlife (member) does great work, and keep making the public aware of the problems our wildlife have, and our environment they live in. Reply Elizabeth Fleming March 16th, 2011 Linda, We really appreciate your support and want you to know that our Florida program will continue to work hard to conserve and recover panthers. There are some exciting efforts underway to increase protected areas for panthers and other widlife – stay tuned. Elizabeth Fleming Florida Representative Defenders of Wildlife Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up: Happy Howl-o-ween! Could it be true? A Northern Rockies gray wolf in Arizona!!? Will BLM say “No” to Wolf Killing Contest? An Update from the Field: A Summary of this Week’s Wolf Research Panel in Seattle Helping a Halloween Icon Protecting the bat population is good for people, agriculture, and our environment. Remember the Owens Valley Photographer and writer Krista Schyler shares the first part of her California Desert Tour series, featuring the beautiful Owens Valley.