Florida Panther Response Plan Available



The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the availability of a
revised Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Interagency Florida
Panther Response Plan (Federal Register Volume 72, Number 212, Pages
62256-62257).

This response plan establishes guidelines for responding to and managing
potential interactions between people and Florida panthers and for
educating the public about appropriate behavior when living and
recreating in panther habitat.

"The Service, the National Park Service, and the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission are ensuring public safety by
establishing protocols for responding to possible encounters between
humans and panthers," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director
for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "At the same time, we also are
trying to address the conservation needs of this critically endangered
animal mainly found south of Lake Okeechobee."

Florida's urban and suburban growth has expanded into panther habitat.
Concurrently, recovery actions increased the Florida panther population
from 20 to 30 animals to about 80 to 100 animals in 2007. Meanwhile,
Florida's human population grew from 14.2 million people in 1995 to an
estimated 17.8 million people in 2005, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau. This situation increases the possibility of interaction between
people and panthers. Definitive guidelines and instructions were needed
to allow for panther conservation and public safety.

There has never been a documented attack of a Florida panther on a
human, but they have taken livestock and pets.

A copy of the revised EA for the Interagency Florida Response Plan can
be found at http://www.fws.gov/southeast/news/

The draft EA was published in May 2006, for public comments that were
taken into consideration. Comments were also solicited from the
Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of
Florida.

Several issues and concerns were identified through tribal and public
comments, peer reviews, and discussions between the three agencies
involved. Revisions to the EA and plan include: (1) adding discussion
of cultural resource impacts to the local tribes; (2) eliminating the
first two chapters (Chapter 1: Florida Panther - Status, Biology and
Recovery; Chapter 2: Living with Florida Panthers) of the plan ( 3)
reorganizing the plan to reduce redundancy and clarify management
actions; (4) separating of the section on depredation from the other
human-panther classifications (sighting(s), encounter(s), incidents,
threat, attack) because depredations are distinctly different from
direct human-panther interactions; and, (5) including a risk factor with
each classification.

Written comments on the EA should be sent to the Service's Field or
Regional Office by December 3, 2007. The revised EA will be considered
final if substantive comments are not received

Obtain a written copy of the EA or send comments to Layne Hamilton,
Refuge Manager, Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands National
Wildlife Refuges, 3860 Tollgate Blvd., Suite 300, Naples, Florida 34114,
telephone 239/353-8442, ext. 227, or Elizabeth Souheaver, Southeast
Regional Office, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard,
Suite 420, Atlanta, Georgia 30345, telephone 404-679-7163 or fax
404-679-4082 . E-mails can be sent to pantherresponseplan@fws.gov If
sending an e-mail, please include name and complete address.