First they came for the bears, now the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FFWC) wants to start killing the last 100 Florida panthers. Sign here to tell them - NO WAY: Save the panthers.
There are fewer than 200 panthers alive in Florida today, all that is left of a magnificent species that once roamed the southern US from the Carolinas to Florida to Texas. Even so, a dozen or more are killed every year by cars, frightened ranchers and angry hunters.1
But now even the few dozen panthers we have left are threatened by corporate interests in Florida, and their champion on the FFWC, Liesa Priddy. Florida profiteers have spent more than a decade trying to develop 177,000 acres of land adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Their anti-wilderness plan calls for a new town in the heart of the panther's habitat, along with mining, fracking wells, oil rigs and more.2
To clear the way for the development and protect corporate profits from wildlife, Priddy has proposed a rash and unscientific plan before the FFWC that would make it legal to shoot endangered Panthers on sight.3 The plan has been ridiculed in the press, attacked by scientists and lambasted in public meetings. But that may not be enough to stop this plan from ending of all nine of the panther's lives at once. Sign here to save the Panthers and stop the FFWC's plan, because extinction is forever.
Panthers, also called cougars and pumas, are one of the Southern U.S. original apex predators. Although they are shy around humans (to date, there have been no reports of endangered panthers attacking humans), they are majestic hunters and need a wide range to hunt in. By the 1970s, greedy over-development, loss of habitat and trophy hunting had eliminated the species everywhere but Florida, where as few as 30 wild panthers survived. Diseased and weak, panthers were brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 1982, the panthers were named Florida's official state animal.1
It's been hard work, but today there are over 100 panthers living in the recovery zone -- a fragile remnant of the once-dominant species that teeters on the brink of genetic viability.4
And that's where Priddy's problem comes in: Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it's illegal to kill a panther -- you can go to jail for a year or be fined $100,000 if caught. But ranchers like Priddy claim they're already losing thousands of dollars in livestock to panthers, and there's no way plans to build a new town, oil wells or fracking rigs can proceed in the middle of their habitat without changes to panther protections.
So to get around the ESA, Priddy wrote a new panther killing policy in which she claims there are already too many panthers in central Florida. She didn't consult with FWC biologists before making that outrageous claim, but uses it to justify "incidental" killing of panthers if they threaten business interests like ranching and development in Florida.3
Scientists and wildlife lovers alike are outraged. When FWC biologists finally saw the plan's claim that there are too many panthers, one remarked, "I am unaware of any analysis...that reached that conclusion...it's an opinion, not a fact."2 But we've already seen this runaway, rogue commission ignore science and public outcry when egged on by a few pro-hunting members: Their plan to legalize bear hunting was approved without a proper population count, and despite the opposition of two thirds of Floridians and more than 75 percent of the public comments the FFWC received.
Now, a dangerous plan to defy the Endangered Species Act and shoot panther's on sight has been proposed. Only our collective outrage online, in the press and in the committee rooms can stop it. We urgently need your help -- Sign here to save the Florida panther and tell Priddy and the FFWC to protect endangered species.
For the Panthers
Anthony and the wildlife for wild's sake team at Environmental Action
1. M. R. O’Connor, No Home for the Florida Panther, The New Yorker, September 9, 2015
2. Pittman, Craig. Wildlife Commissioner Part of Group Seeking Permit To 'Take' Panthers. Tampa Bay Times. August 14, 2015.
3. Pittman, Craig. Over Scientists' Objections, Rancher Pushes Panther Policy. Tampa Bay Times. July 10, 2015.
4. Staletovich, Jenny. Does Florida Have Enough Panthers? The Miami Herald. June 22, 2015.