The endangered Florida Panther is our state’s official animal and one of the most endangered mammals in the country. A surprising statistic may be indicating the panther’s decline.
Only eight Florida panther deaths have been recorded this year, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission record. They’ve all been from vehicle collisions. And for Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean Director & Senior Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, that’s troubling.
“The reason that seeing this lower number is a concern to us, is because it suggests, perhaps, that the panther population is smaller, so fewer panthers are being hit because there are simply fewer to be crossing roads,”
What may be causing this decrease? There are many possible reasons, including habitat loss from development, as well as a fairly new disease.
“It’s called Feline leukomyelopathy, or FLM, and officials have seen this both in bobcats as well as in Florida panthers. It’s this neuromuscular disease that really inhibits, permanently, panther’s ability to move. So often these panthers appear to be wobbly, they stumble when they walk. And, to date, we really don’t know a whole lot about FLM.”
Bennett is calling on federal officials to do more for the panther.
“We really urge the wildlife agencies to do a more in-depth assessment of what the panther population looks like right now”
She encourages the public to report wildcats that may have a wobbly walk to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and write their representatives to do more to protect the panthers.