The Florida panther is one of the world’s rarest wild cats, as well as one of the most popular – it is the state animal of Florida — but a new proposal might bring extinction much closer.
The survival of this rare cat, a subspecies of the cougar, is dependent on adequate habitat, yet panther land is under threat from a large new construction project.
Forests would be destroyed to make way for housing projects, shopping malls, and industrial zones for sand and gravel mining, resulting in the influx of 300,000 additional inhabitants and the formation of many new small cities. About 20,000 acres of the 40,000 acres utilized for this project would be chopped into the wild home of the Florida panther, where they wander and hunt.
The remaining population of Florida panthers is believed to be approximately 200. Habitat loss and fragmentation pose the greatest threat to their existence.
According to Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, an organization that fights for local animals, “the panther barely has a toehold in Florida anymore.” “Continued progress in this direction defies logic.”
People are also concerned about the large roadways that will be required to accommodate the additional buildings. Panthers in Florida are frequently struck by automobiles and killed. In December, a 9-year-old female panther was killed by a car, and 29 of these cats were murdered last year, primarily as a result of automobile crashes.
According to Amber Crooks, environmental policy manager of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, “the greatest available research tells us the panther requires all of its accessible habitat to live and eventually recover.”
Before construction can commence, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must approve the proposal, so there is still time to object. Giving people an opportunity to stand up for the panther, on the other hand, has been difficult. Last year, the public was given 45 days to comment on the plan, which conservationists believed was much too short. Conservation organizations made a request to extend the public comment period, but it was denied.