Environment

Wildlife agents arrest Miami man holding endangered Florida panther kittens in video

Florida panthers have been federally protected for more than four decades. This young male was released in the Rotenberger Water Management Area in 2013 after being rescued with his sister as 5-month-old kittens after their mother was found dead.
Florida panthers have been federally protected for more than four decades. This young male was released in the Rotenberger Water Management Area in 2013 after being rescued with his sister as 5-month-old kittens after their mother was found dead. Miami Herald Staff

Note to selfie addicts: If you’re going to film yourself playing with wildlife, make sure it’s not endangered.

On Friday, federal wildlife officers arrested a Miami man after investigators say he and a friend posted a video of one of the men holding two Florida panther kittens in February.

Florida panthers, which number between just 120 and 230, have been federally protected for more than four decades. Feeding them, petting them and certainly grabbing their young is considered a “take” and is against the law.

Agents suspect Alfredo De Queralta and Javier Torres violated numerous laws when they posted the video. The video showed the men spooking a female panther from her den and grabbing her two kittens, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Warren said. Agents arrested De Queralta after searching his house in the 1900 block of Northwest 25th Avenue in Miami. They also searched Torres’ house in the 14200 block of Southwest 154th Street, Warren said.

Warren could not say which man appeared in the video. WPLG Channel 10 reported that Torres starred in the brief video.

The searches are part of an ongoing investigation by the federal agency and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The two men could face up to $100,000 in fines and a year in prison if convicted, Warren said.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich

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