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Big Cypress Press Release        May 27, 2016

Florida panther released back into the wild at Big Cypress National Preserve


Contacts

Bob DeGross, NPS 239-695-1107

Ken Warren, USFWS 772-643-4407

Carli Segelson, FWC 772-215-9459


Photos and a short slow motion video available HERE


A 2-year-old Florida panther is now back in the wild at its new home in Big Cypress National Preserve. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and National Park Service staff successfully released the panther Wednesday afternoon near Gum Slough in the southwest corner of the Preserve.


The panther was originally captured by the FWC and USFWS on April 12 at the Farm Worker Village neighborhood, near Immokalee in Collier County. Based on observations of the panther’s behavior, including evidence that pets and feral domestic cats in the neighborhood had frequently been preyed upon by the panther, as well as the specific layout of thick vegetation in and around Farm Worker Village, a decision was made to remove and relocate the panther as a safety precaution and as a form of aversive conditioning intended to change the panther’s behavior.


Once captured, FWC staff transported the panther to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo where it received multiple health assessments, primarily to ensure that it did not test positive for feline leukemia. Zoo veterinary professionals gave the panther a clean bill of health and determined it was ready to be returned to the wild in a more remote area.


Biologists believe the panther was dispersing from its mother, attempting to find a suitable home range. With the release of the male into the Preserve the main threats it continues to face are being killed by another territorial male in the vicinity or being killed by vehicle collision as it continues to roam to find a suitable home range.


The FWC and USFWS staff are working with residents of the Farm Worker Village to prevent future conflicts with Florida panthers. Biologists have made numerous site visits and have held multiple meetings at the Village to provide information about steps residents can take to reduce risk and to deter panthers and bears from lingering in the area. The FWC and USFWS are also working with the property manager to address overgrown vegetation in and around the neighborhood.


For more information about coexisting with panthers, visit FloridaPanthernet.org and click on “Living in Panther Country” in the top left corner.




February 13, 2017

Endangered Florida Panther Finds New Home at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

VERO BEACH, Fla. (February 13, 2017) -- Federal and state wildlife officials found permanent safe haven for a two-year-old Florida panther at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The endangered panther is no longer considered viable for release to the wild due to its behavior: He was captured and removed twice from nearby residential areas because he was preying upon pets--putting himself, the public and their pets at risk.


Officials with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) first captured the panther on April 12, 2016, following several unexpected direct encounters between the panther and residents at the Farm Workers Village neighborhood, near Immokalee in Collier County where pets and feral cats in the neighborhood had frequently been preyed upon by the panther.


In addition, the specific layout of thick vegetation in and around Farm Workers Village made it an area where the panther could easily hide in close proximity to the homes. Based on those factors, in accordance with the Interagency Florida Panther Response Plan (IFPRP), a joint federal/state team decided to remove and relocate the panther as a safety precaution and as a form of aversive conditioning intended to change its behavior.


Once captured, FWC staff transported the panther to experts at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, where it received multiple health assessments primarily to ensure that it did not test positive for the feline leukemia virus, a contagious disease carried by domestic cats that can be fatal to panthers. Zoo veterinary professionals gave the panther a clean bill of health, and officials released the animal to the Big Cypress National Preserve in late May.


In early July, the panther entered the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation community, some 40 miles away from his release site. Once there, it began exhibiting a similar pattern of behavior, including preying on domestic pets and frequenting residential areas.


In light of those repeated depredation events and the fact that the previous capture and relocation did not alter the panther’s behavior, the Interagency Florida Panther Response Team decided that this panther posed a public safety concern and should be permanently removed from the wild.


“Although this panther never displayed aggressive behavior towards humans, the pattern of behavior was concerning enough that we decided to remove it as a proactive response to the risks posed to residents,” said David Shindle, USFWS Florida Panther Coordinator.


The permanent removal of panthers from the wild that pose a demonstrable threat to human safety is consistent with the IFPRP and the Endangered Species Act. In some extreme circumstances, or if an approved captive management facility cannot be found, euthanasia may be necessary.


After consulting with the Tribe and securing approval to remove the panther, it was captured on July 21 and transported by USFWS staff to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo to await permanent placement in an approved captive management facility.


“As soon as we heard he could not be released again, we started looking at our own capacity and that of our partners to see who might be able to take this animal in,” said Dr. Ray Ball, Senior Veterinarian at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.


After weighing the options carefully, the zoo made the decision to house the panther, named “Micanopy,” on-site. But this all hinged on one thing--how Micanopy got along with Lucy, a resident Florida panther already living at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.


In December, following an additional round of check-ups, zoo staff began the process of introducing the two animals. The introductions went well, and the two panthers are now sharing the same habitat and can be seen by zoo visitors along with other native Florida wildlife.


“We are happy to have made a difference in the life of this animal, and we stand ready to assist USFWS and FWC with any future panther-related needs,” said Dr. Ball. “The Florida panther is more than an important symbol for the state, it is an integral species in our native ecosystem that our zoo is dedicated to protecting.”


“This has been a joint effort and the interagency team would like to thank Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo and the Seminole Tribe for being great partners with us on this initiative,” said Shindle.

© Ralph Arwood 2017