Environment

Want to keep protecting Florida panthers? Time to speak up

Federal wildlife officials are asking for public comment on a five-year review of rules protecting endangered Florida panthers.
Federal wildlife officials are asking for public comment on a five-year review of rules protecting endangered Florida panthers. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Federal wildlife officials are asking for public comment on a review to determine whether rules protecting endangered Florida panthers need to be changed.

The review is part of a regular check-up and was not prompted by any recent actions, including a push by state wildlife officials, hunters and ranchers in 2015 to reconsider the number of panthers needed for a successful recovery, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Ken Warren.

“We're required to review the status of each federally listed species approximately every five years,” he said in an email.

However, the assessment will likely include the recent discovery of female panthers north of the Caloosahatchee River. A separate population north of the river is part of a recovery plan but has drawn complaints as officials struggled to find a place — and agreeable land owners — to relocate panthers. As the population south of the river expanded, male panthers crossed, but no females.

That changed after wildlife officials spotted a female north of the river in November. In March, the agency confirmed the births of two kittens.

At the same time the panthers appear to be expanding their territory, the number of deaths and road kills continues at a record pace.

To make a comment, email david_shindle@fws.gov or send a letter to the U.S. Wildlife Service at 12085 State Road 29 South, Immokalee, FL 34142. For more information, click here or visit www.fws.gov/southeast/wildlife/mammals/florida-panther/. The comment period ends Aug. 29.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich

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