Florida wildlife officials say a panther in Collier County has been feasting on caged birds. The cat, known as number 79, has eaten a trio of chickens, a turkey and possibly a goose. It’s one of the first times a healthy Florida panther keeps getting too close to its human neighbors.
Fish and Wildlife authorities had to come up with some new tactics to fend off a male Florida panther, which seems to have learned how tasty a penned chicken can be. Number 79 or Don Juan – so dubbed because he has fathered about 30 kittens in his 10 years in the wild – stole a few fowl from an Ochopee petting zoo last week. He may have taken more Monday from a nearby home. Panthers usually eat wild hogs and deer.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission panther biologist Darrell Land says they captured the radio collared cat to make sure he was healthy, released him 20 miles away and he went right back to the site.
“Though it’s not a behavior that we’ve seen very often but the opportunities are there and are very smart animals. If they know of good places to find food they’re going to continue to come back and visit those places. So I think from a management point of view we need to try to identify where those places are and where there may be conflicts with people and encourage residents and business people to make those domestic livestock off limits to panthers.”
Land says they’re trying something new – putting up electric fences to keep the panther out. There are two opportunities for the public to respond regarding the state and federal government’s current approaches to panther conservation. The new Florida panther recovery plan is on line at the Fish and Wildlife service website. And later this month the federal wildlife service will release a document on what officials should do when more cats start acting like number 79.
Wednesday, 15 February 2006 00:00