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Florida Panther Kills Pet in Immokalee


December 16, 2005

Dani Moschella, FWC, (772) 215-9459
Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, (404) 679-7291

An investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers has confirmed an Immokalee homeowner’s report that a Florida panther killed his pet Chihuahua. The attack occurred around 8 p.m., December 12, 2005.

The homeowner said he shined a light out of his window after hearing the dog yelping. He said a few minutes later the panther retreated to the woods with the small dog. The homeowner reported the incident to the FWC, which dispatched law enforcement officers to investigate.

When officers arrived, the panther and dog were gone, but there was blood on the ground. An officer and a biologist returned to the scene the following morning and found the fresh tracks of a male Florida panther.

Before the attack, the Chihuahua and another pet dog were tethered by a cable in the side yard of the residence near adjacent woods. There was no fence between the dogs and the forest area. The property is surrounded by many acres of wildlife habitat, connected to areas often used by panthers.

This is the second report of a Florida panther attacking a domestic dog in 20 years. The last one was in the late 1980s, however, the dog involved in that attack was not seriously injured. In 2004, a Florida panther killed two domestic goats and an emu near Ochopee.

Interactions between Florida panthers and humans are rare. The cats hunt at night and generally are afraid of people. There has never been a reported injury or death of a human caused by a Florida panther.

FWC law enforcement officers are paying repeat visits to the site where the dog attack occurred. The homeowner told officers he was particularly concerned because the family runs a small daycare center out of the house during the day. However, he said the family has taken measures to ensure the safety of the children.

Panther experts advise parents living in Florida panther country to watch children whenever they play outdoors, and make sure they are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Parents should also talk with children about Florida panthers and teach them what to do if they encounter one – specifically, not to approach the cat, not to run and not to crouch down (which would make children appear smaller).

The Florida panther has been recognized as an endangered species for nearly 40 years. Experts believe there are between 70 and 100 living in the wild. Scientists use radio collars to monitor the movements and behavior of about a third of the known Florida panther population.

FWC, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service work together to respond to Florida panther incidents and to educate and inform the public about ways to live safely with wildlife, including the Florida panther. A fact sheet on Living Safely in Florida Panther Country is available.


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