Agencies To Remove Florida Panther 79 From The Wild After Repeated Livestock Depredations
As of 5:00 p.m. today, a capture team had treed the cat and was preparing to capture him.
Biologists confirmed that the radio-collared cat has been responsible for a number of recent depredations in the Ochopee area along Hwy 41. This panther was able to access pets or livestock that were either free-ranging or in enclosures that were not successful in keeping the panther out.
This will be only the second time agency officials have removed a Florida panther from the wild due to depredations. The last cat, an 8-year old male known as FP60, was removed in the summer of 2004 after preying on animals in a petting zoo near Trail Lakes.
FP79 has taken domestic livestock from a number of residences. Biologists applied aversive conditioning to FP79 twice in the last week. The first time was on February 9 after the cat had taken a turkey from a landowner's enclosure. Biologists captured the cat and ran a series of tests to ensure the cat was healthy. They moved him approximately twenty-two miles away, but still within his home range, hoping that he would not return to the site. He returned to the site within 48 hours.
The second aversive conditioning occurred early in the morning of February 13. The previous night, the cat took livestock from a different landowner's enclosure. Agency personnel worked with the landowner to quickly install an electric fence, and when the cat returned for a second night of easy prey, he received a shock and fled the area.
The decision to remove the cat was made after biologists learned that last night FP79 killed a hog at yet another private landowner's property.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the Service, other federal land management agencies and state conservation agencies can take endangered wildlife to remove a "demonstrable, but non-immediate threat, to human safety.....", such as indicated by this recent history of predation incidents near to residences. This cat has generally not shown normal panther behavior, which includes fleeing areas where the cat has been aversively conditioned.
These incidents have occurred adjacent to Big Cypress National Preserve. Preserve staff and law enforcement officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are working closely with private landowners to educate them about good animal husbandry techniques to protect livestock from panthers and other predators such as bear, bobcat, and coyotes.
At time of release, the capture is still on-going. A teleconference call for media with the capture team will be scheduled as soon as the capture details are available (tentatively early Friday afternoon). Media wishing to be informed about that teleconference may e-mail Dani Moschella (FWC) at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Tom MacKenzie (email@example.com).
Information for the public about living safely with wild animals in Florida can be found at http://myfwc.com/panther.
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