Feb 22, 2022 - News

Wildlife officials mark rare Florida panther for death

A panther runs off as people photograph it

A 2-year-old Florida panther is released into the wild by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2013. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency formed to protect wildlife, has taken an unprecedented step and marked for death a rare Florida panther known as FP 260.

  • FP 260 is still alive, but has been targeted for capture and euthanasia, Craig Pittman reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Driving the news: Because of an Immokalee rancher's persistent complaints that FP 260 was killing her calves, the federal agency decided the endangered panther should die, despite protests from biologists.

  • "FP 260 is the renegade panther with a taste for veal, unfortunately," one state biologist wrote, per Pittman, who reviewed some 400 agency emails about the panther.

The big picture: The endangered Florida panther has been in decline in the last half century or so, from hunting before it was illegal, then from development and cars.

  • There are around 200 Florida panthers left on the southern tip of the peninsula, a rebound from fewer than 30 in the 1990s.

How it happened: FP 260 first caught biologists' attention after it was struck by a car in 2020 and crawled off the road and onto the Immokalee ranch of Liesa Priddy.

Yes, but: Priddy, a former state wildlife commissioner, has complained about panthers killing her cows for a decade. She said FP 260 killed 10 of her calves in a matter of months. Annual losses to panthers topped $25,000, she reported.

  • Her complaints reached the top levels of wildlife bureaucracy.
  • Wildlife officials tried everything, from hazing the animal to firing "shell crackers" to scare it off. They eventually relocated the panther 18 miles south, but it returned to the ranch.

In late December, federal panther coordinator David Shindle wrote that his agency had determined FP 260 should be "permanently" removed from the wild after Priddy said she feared the panther would attack a human.

  • Shindle wrote that the law "provides for removing animals that constitute a demonstrable but non-immediate threat to human safety."

The latest: Calving season has ended at Priddy's ranch and the panther has gone back to the wild.

  • A USFWS spokesperson told Pittman they're not actively looking for the panther.

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