The Florida panther is the most endangered mammal in the eastern United States. Only 120-180 remain, all in South Florida.
Tom Trotta, a Florida Master Naturalist and President of the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge, explains why we need to save the Florida panther. Trotta shares 3 important reasons:
- The Florida panther is a symbol of the wilderness- from the Calusa people (e.g. the Marco Cat) to Florida’s school children (who voted the Florida panther as the state animal). How do we explain to our children and future generations why we didn’t take action to protect this magnificent animal (along with other wildlife dependent on the panther), and allow them to vanish from our landscape?
- Umbrella species – The endangered status of the Florida panther benefits other rare, threatened and endangered species, as well as us! We need undeveloped land for clean air and water.
What would Florida be, devoid of its beauty and wildlife? Would it be a place you would want to live in or to visit?
Not everyone can personally experience wildlife and wild places but we are all connected to the Earth, and the continued existence of these animals, plants and places are linked to our survival. We depend on them more than we know.
The Florida panther is the only animal in Florida that can ensure protection of connected large tracts of wild land, due to the legal protection offered by the Federal Endangered Species Act. There are other legally protected animals, from indigo snakes toEverglades kites, but their protected status only covers individual tracks of land, not large connected ranges. Without the continuous protected range of the Florida panther the landscape will fragment, and many species will be confined to islands cut off by roads and development; they will eventually die out.
Again what would we tell future generations?
- The Florida panther is the apex predator in its range. The panther controls other species from overpopulating, both native and introduced. A great example is feral hogs. These animals were introduced into the landscape beginning with Spanish explorers in the 1500s, and continuing to the 1980s. They are highly destructive to the environment, and even aggressive. Panthers prefer hogs as main prey, and have demonstrated they can control hog populations where they roam free. There are many other examples.
What can you do to help save the Florida panther?
There are numerous volunteer opportunities available, such as becoming a Friend or donating to the cause, advocating by writing public officials and your representatives, educating the public, and work days on the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, to name a few.
If you are interested in becoming involved to help save the Florida panther, please contact the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at: www.floridapanther.org. The Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and protect the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the endangered Florida panther.
To learn more about the Florida panther, go to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge at www.fws.gov/refuge/florida_panther.