The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced on Friday that it has no intention to have the Florida panther removed from the list of endangered species in the state or to change any sanction regarding its protection.

Officials from the agency, however, said that they do believe that the criteria set by federal representatives should be reviewed regarding the removal of the endemic panther from the endangered list as well as the responsibilities of the FWC on such matters.

One of the primary concerns being raised is the loosening of a requirement placed on state officials to establish populations of panther in areas outside of southwest Florida, where the animals are currently concentrated. This point was included in a revision of a paper on draft policy that is scheduled to be voted on by state commissioners in September.

During an interview with local reporters on Friday, FWC executive director Nick Wiley said that the recovery of the Florida panther is heading toward a different chapter.

The local population of panther in Florida has been increasing in size over the past two decades, with numbers of individual animals reaching as high as 180 matured panthers. In 1967, this particular species of panther was included in the endangered animals list after their numbers dropped to as low as 30 panthers.

The original form of the draft policy was presented to the commissioners in June, but it was set aside until September to allow staffers from the FWC to provide sufficient input.

The revision on the draft removes statements that pertain to the current populations of panther as causing strain on local landowners, recreationists and residents in the area. It is believed that the growing number of panthers in the region has led to the killing of ranch animals and even caused car crashes on roadways.

FWC deputy director Kipp Frohlich said that it is vital to maintain the support of the public for efforts regarding the conservation of Florida panthers. He explained that part of keeping the people's support for the program is to recognize when there are conflicts concerning wildlife.

 Frohlich pointed out that despite the success of their program in increasing the number of panthers in the region it has also resulted in more conflicts in recent years.

The new version of the draft policy presents the need protect and restore the natural habitats of panthers located in southwest areas of Florida instead of establishing new panther populations outside of the region.

Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region | Flickr 

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