Because of recent incidents of Florida panthers taking small livestock in Golden Gates Estates, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is cautioning Collier County residents to take the necessary precautions to properly shelter animals such as goats, sheep, calves, pigs, donkeys and chickens.
“The best way for people to protect small livestock is to keep them in a secure, fenced enclosure with a roof, especially at night,” said FWC panther team leader Darrell Land. “Panther depredations on animals in backyards can be prevented, and we encourage Golden Gate Estates residents to take the necessary steps to protect their animals from being taken by a panther or other predator.”
Similar safety measures should be taken to protect pets like dogs and cats, by keeping them indoors at night or in an outdoor panther-proof pen.
The FWC is investigating and monitoring depredations on so-called hobby livestock that recently have been concentrated in the area of 6th Street SE in Golden Gate Estates. However, panther depredations can occur throughout the area, and biologists encourage the community’s residents who live east of Collier Boulevard to take appropriate steps to protect their backyard animals from all predators roaming this semi-rural area. Predators include bobcats and coyotes as well as panthers.
“The FWC is alerting Golden Gate Estates residents that taking precautions today to protect their small livestock from panthers will have beneficial long-term effects by discouraging panthers and other predators from repeatedly coming back into their community looking for easy prey,” Land said.
People can learn more about living in panther country from the brochure, “A guide to living with Florida Panthers”. It reminds people, for instance, not to feed deer or other wildlife around their home, since that can attract panthers looking for prey.
Land, who has lived in Golden Gate Estates for more than 25 years, said wildlife is common in the area because its relatively large residential lots often include natural habitat areas. The community also is bordered on three sides by conservation lands, which include the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to the east, Picayune Strand State Forest and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park to the south, and Bird Rookery Swamp, part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, to the north – all of which are regularly used by panthers.
If people have problems or concerns about panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. To report a panther sighting to the FWC, go to MyFWC.com/PantherSightings.
Additional information about Florida panthers is available at FloridaPantherNet.org.