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Florida Panther Population Estimate Updated


February 22, 2017

A panther laying down looking directly at the camera.
Florida panther. Photo by Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have updated the estimated number of endangered Florida panthers in their breeding range south of the Caloosahatchee River.

The updated population estimate is 120 to 230 adult and subadult Florida panthers, according to a February 2017 report from the agencies collaborating on conservation and recovery efforts. The previous Florida panther population estimate was 100 to 180 adult and subadult panthers in 2014. These population estimates do not include kittens, which are still dependent on their mothers.

The panther population report is available on FloridaPantherNet.org.

The report emphasizes both the importance and difficulty in obtaining accurate panther population estimates, which is similar to estimating the other puma populations in western states. Currently, Florida scientists are evaluating several methods to refine their ability to estimate the panther population size, including the use of trail cameras and panther road mortality data. The current numbers, developed jointly by USFWS and FWC scientists, use annual counts of panthers primarily conducted on public lands. Density of panthers on these areas is then multiplied across the larger area that makes up the primary breeding range in south Florida. Although there are some panthers outside of this range in south Florida and in areas north of the Caloosahatchee River, they are primarily dispersing males and do not significantly contribute to the breeding population.



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Offers Reward for Information in Tennessee Bald Eagle Deaths


February 14, 2017

Two veterinarians hold and measure an injured bald eagle.
Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Avian and Exotics Resident, and fourth-year veterinary student Timothy Pearson from the Avian and Exotic Animals Service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center examine a bald eagle that was shot. Photo: Avian and Exotic Animals Service at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering a reward of $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who shot two bald eagles in the Tennessee River Valley recently. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the Service are investigating the shootings. There is a separate reward for each eagle.

“We are especially angered by these actions because it is nesting season,” said TWRA Wildlife Sergeant Chris Combs. “This is our national symbol and it’s an atrocity to see them senselessly shot.”

“These birds hold a special place in Americans’ hearts,” said FWS Resident Agent in Charge John Rayfield. “They are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and we need citizens who might have some information to come forward and help us investigate this crime.”



Pythons nose their way into Florida Keys


February 8, 2016

Seven individuals crouched on a beach holding a python.
Irula tribesmen from Indian have been helping state and federal officials in Florida capture invasive pythons. This 16-foot female turned up in a disused bunker at a closed missile site at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ed Metzger, the University of Florida

A couple of long-disused buildings in the Florida Keys that once sheltered servicemen from missile launches have been sheltering something else – pythons.

Four large crawlers – one, a female, was nearly 16 feet long – turned up within the last month at an old missile base at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) reported.

Scientists think the snakes migrated from the Everglades, a fertile breeding ground for the unwanted predators. Now, officials say, the snakes may be poised to head south, where several Keys species are defenseless against the large, invasive reptiles.

Compounding their concerns: Officials this past summer also discovered some hatchling pythons near Key Largo – a strong indication that the snakes have found a welcome habitat and are multiplying.



17 More Fish, Mussels, and Other Species Don't Need the ESA's Protection


February 7, 2016

A semi-transluscent red fish with catfish like whiskers.
Ouachita madtom. Photo by Conservation Fisheries.

Call this the story of the one that got away – not by wiggling out of a net or snapping a line, but by prospering.

Scientists recently proposed that Ouachita madtom, a whiskery fish found in Arkansas, be removed from a petition that had called for its protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity seven years ago proposed that the fish be protected. It said recently it would remove that fish and 16 others species it had sought to be protected.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) recently removed them from its work plan – proof that the species are doing far better than originally thought.

The species’ removal is but the latest indication that scores of plants and animals across the Southeast are maintaining – and, in some cases, thriving.



Week-long Festival Showcases the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges

Second Annual Outdoor Fest Set for March 11th – 18th


February 7, 2016

The silhouette of a bird standing on a piling in front of calm water and a sunset.
A great white heron rests on a piling at sunset in the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mickey Foster.

For anyone wanting an up-close take on the great outdoors, a celebration of the National Wildlife Refuge system in the Florida Keys is just around the subtropical bend. US Fish and Wildlife Service's Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex and their Friends group FAVOR announce their second annual Outdoor Fest—a full week of action-packed days filled with family-friendly, mostly free outdoor adventures and hands-on activities—set for Saturday, March 11th through Saturday, March 18th.

“The National Wildlife Refuge System is part of America's network of amazing public lands with refuges being “the "cousin" of America's National Parks,” says Ranger and Outreach Coordinator Kristie Killam. “We’re really fortunate to have these areas for people to visit and enjoy nature.”

The annual Outdoor Fest was created to remind people of the incredible natural resources we have available here in the Keys and encourage them to get outside while promoting an understanding and appreciation of the refuges—home to some of the world’s most endangered habitats, plants, and wildlife species, including the endangered Key Deer.



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Last updated: Febraury 22, 2016