Friday, December 19, 2014

Sierra Club Statement on Record Breaking Florida Panther Deaths

Sierra Club Statement on Record Breaking Florida panther Deaths

Friday, December 19th, 2014
Contact:
Alexis Meyer, 727-490-8215 or alexis.meyer@sierraclub.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 18, 2014

Sierra Club Statement on Record Breaking Florida Panther Deaths

Ft. Myers, Florida – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces record-breaking year in Florida panther deaths.

Alexis Meyer, Associate Organizing Representative of Sierra Club’s Florida Panther Critical Habitat Campaign, issued the following response:


“This week, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Florida panther record for deaths in one year was broken, and a new record for road mortalities was set, when three young male panthers were reported dead within twenty-four hours. Thirty panthers have died in 2014; the two biggest killers being cars (23) and intraspecific aggression (fighting between the same species) (3).  Overwhelmingly, people are causing the decline of the already critically endangered species.

“The greatest threat to the Florida panther is loss of habitat/fragmentation and encroachment by humans. Both car strikes and intraspecific aggression are symptoms of the much larger problem of habitat loss. Panthers have not received critical habitat designation, the lands identified as essential for the continued existence of a species, by the federal government. Instead their habitat in South Florida faces a continual net loss every year.  With reduced impact fees from construction, the economy on the upswing and pressure from developers, miners, and oil drillers, panther habitat is at a premium.  And the panthers are losing.

“As panthers seek territory or mates, they are increasingly coming into contact with humans, whether with their cars or their hobby animals. More deaths on hobby farm animals, like goats and chickens, were also reported this year. But with subsidized predator-proof fencing (Defenders of Wildlife will even help homeowners set them up!), and a little education, the majority of these losses could have been prevented. And while more people are seeing panthers, there has still never been a confirmed attack by a Florida panther on a human being - not ever.

A few government and private advocacy spokespeople are touting these record-breaking deaths as a success story, claiming that it is a positive sign that the Florida Panther population is growing. This wayward interpretation of a small increase in the panther population intentionally sidesteps the real issue:  One of the most endangered mammals in North America is literally being run over by development.  The Florida Panther is being squeezed out by habitat loss, traversing roads without protective wildlife underpasses, and being vilified in the media.  Our state animal, the embodiment of what makes Florida wild, is losing out.”

# # #