Endangered Florida Panther – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by jo Crebbin
So far this year, 24 endangered Florida panthers have died, an average of more than one death a week. Eighteen of these panthers have died on roadways. Currently, only an estimated 120 to 230 adult Florida Panthers roam the Earth, and they are all located in southwest Florida.
Just in the last week of September, three endangered panthers were killed on roadways in Collier and Lee counties — a three-year-old male and a female that was 10 to 12 years old, and a kitten just 3 to 4 months old.
It’s hard to deal with this ongoing tragedy along with all the other things happening throughout the world, but there are concrete actions that can be taken to protect our panthers.
Floridian Shannon Estenoz was chosen to be assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks and is in charge of the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Estenoz is currently among the top U.S. officials in charge of protecting endangered species. How amazing would it be to watch a Floridian in the federal government work hard to save our official state animal?
Below are a few key actions we can suggest to stop these increasing panther deaths:
- Strengthening federal protections for Florida panthers under the Endangered Species Act will make sure panthers remain unharmed regardless of the new traffic and roads that will come with massive commercial and housing developments now planned within Panther habitat.
- Revisit the decision to open the 25,560-acre Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge to a greater amount of people. Allowing biking trails, turkey hunting, boardwalks, and more infrastructure will only put Florida panthers in more danger.
- Return federal wetlands permitting authority to the federal government instead of allowing Florida to grant developers a free pass, harming endangered species.
- Dent any permits that may threaten panthers, including oil drilling permits and wetland destruction that is now being sought out in the Big Cypress National Preserve area located near Everglades National Park, where panthers call home.
- Put a stop to the recently exposed arrangement where panther territory landowners have been paying staff costs for public employees at the same U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office that’s charged with reviewing plans.
Our state animal is in great danger, and the constant toll of panther deaths on highways is proof that more needs to be done. Just recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared 22 birds, fish, and other wildlife on the endangered species list as extinct. Now is the time to double down on protecting Florida panthers and ensuring these animals thrive and survive, avoiding that same fate.
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