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More Florida panthers means more human encounters

Photo courtesy National Audubon Society
Photo courtesy National Audubon Society

Florida's rebounding panther population is leading to more human interactions.

A record 31 Florida panthers died in 2014, and most were killed by moving vehicles.

Wildlife authorities also saw a record number of panther attacks on pets and livestock.

Darrell Land of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the Florida panther population is five times what it was 30 years ago.

He credits conservation efforts, especially a breeding program.

"The small number of panthers that we had were getting severely inbred. So we implemented a genetic restoration program where we brought in some females from a different panther population in Texas and brought them in to Florida to revitalize the gene pool."

Land says 30 years ago there were just a few dozen panthers in Florida, and human interactions were very rare.

He says the population today is bigger than at any other time in 100 years.

"Right now mountain lion, puma, whatever you want to call them, in North America most of them are going to be found in the western United States. So Florida really has the last remaining breeding population of puma in North America."


Amy Green covers the environment and climate change at WMFE News. She is an award-winning journalist and author whose extensive reporting on the Everglades is featured in the book MOVING WATER, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and podcast DRAINED, available wherever you get your podcasts. Amy’s work has been heard on NPR and seen in PEOPLE, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, among many other publications. She began her career at The Associated Press in Nashville, Tenn. Amy grew up in Florida and lives in Orlando with her 7-year-old daughter.