The excellent and engaging science communicator, Dr. David Steen, recently shared an encouraging article on his Facebook page. Written by Andrew Atkins, the story covers the population growth of Florida panthers.
“Florida panther” is a local name given to Puma concolor, the same cat that goes by “mountain lion,” “cougar,” and “puma.” Puma concolor is one of the most wide-ranging large predators in the Western hemisphere, and once occupied the entire continental United States. Unfortunately, decades of state bounties, extermination efforts, and overhunting of the cats’ prey drove pumas out of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.
Eastern cougars maintain a foothold in Florida, albeit a precarious one. As Atkins’ article explains, in the 1980s there were only 10 – 20 Florida panthers left in the wild. Now, however, Darrel Land of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) believes there are between 120 – 230 Florida panthers.
While this is great news, Florida panthers are still endangered. The cats’ habitat is shrinking, which forces them into closer contact with one another than they prefer: resulting in sometimes fatal fights. In addition, panthers are frequently killed by cars while attempting to cross the road.
Thus, even though conservationists have done a great job of bringing Florida panthers back from the brink of extinction, there is more to do. Authorities and motorists must work together to reduce panther-vehicle collisions, partially by constructing wildlife crossings and remembering to drive slowly. Furthermore, panthers need more habitat in which to roam. This tweet from Dr. Steen summarizes the situation perfectly:
Atkins’ original article on News-Press.com contains far more information – be sure to visit the link below to check it out!