With four confirmed Florida panther depredations (panthers preying on livestock) in June in the Golden Gate Estates area of Collier County, several concerned organizations are sponsoring a campaign in a northern Golden Gate Estates neighborhood on July 10 to distribute information to residents on how to live responsibly with Florida panthers, bears and other wildlife in southwest Florida.
Over 1,000 homes are in the area, so volunteers are needed to help distribute the materials. Those interested in volunteering for this effort should contact Shannon Miller at Defenders of Wildlife at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 823-3888.
Volunteers should report to Max Hasse Community Park, 3390 Golden Gate Blvd. West in Naples at 8:30 a.m. July 10. The morning will start with a brief orientation for volunteers. Then teams will be formed, given maps and handout materials and assigned specific areas of the neighborhood.
“We’ll have plenty of water. People should bring their cell phones, wear comfortable shoes, hats and sunscreen, insect repellent, etc.,” said Elizabeth Fleming of Defenders of Wildlife.
This campaign is a joint effort by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, National Park Service, Naples Zoo, Collier County Sheriff’s Office and others working to conserve and recover the Florida panther.
FWC biologists believe a panther family is roaming around residents’ properties looking for food. The female panther has killed chickens and goats. The depredations occurred in areas that did not have predator-proof enclosures for the animals. “Vigilance is the key to protecting people’s pets and livestock,” said Mark Lotz, a biologist on the FWC’s panther team. “These animals need to be secured, especially at night, in predator-proof enclosures that have sturdy walls and a roof.”
Florida panthers were listed as endangered in 1967 and are protected under both federal and state laws. "Floridians love their wildlife and have adjusted their lifestyles to help recover alligators, waterbirds, and other species. Effective efforts to save our endangered Florida panther means we can also expect to see more human-panther encounters. Like beach residents who switch off lights for sea turtles or boaters who slow down to help manatees, we need to update the way we care for our pets and livestock to protect them and help panthers," said Tim Tetzlaff of the Naples Zoo.
According to FWC biologists, it is important to remember that a panther sighting does not necessarily constitute a threat to human safety. The FWC recommends that anyone who spots a panther should enjoy the experience from a safe distance or from inside a structure.
However, if people happen across a panther outdoors they should remember that most panthers don’t want a confrontation, so always give them space to move away. Don’t run and stay outwardly calm. Stay still or back away quietly and slowly -- always facing the panther. Do all you can to appear bigger. Pick up any small kids and hold them. If a panther is aggressive, wave your arms, yell and toss objects at it. The goal is to send the message you’re not easy prey and may be dangerous. Fight back if attacked.
To report panther threats, pets or livestock lost to a panther, or an injured or dead panther, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). For more information on how to live safely with panthers, download the “Living with Panthers” brochure at www.FloridaPantherNet.org. The purchase of panther specialty license plates helps fund panther research and management. Visit www.buyaplate.com for more information.