[UPDATE] Florida Panthers Bound Back Thanks to Texas Mates

By: AP
By: AP

[UPDATE] 9-24 2:16PM --

A paper published in the journal “Science” on Friday, September 25 focuses on the long-term efforts of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partner agencies to improve the health of the Florida panther population. Through a process called genetic restoration, scientists have helped increase the population of 20 to 30 animals in the early 1990s to the current population of at least 100.

Genetic restoration involves adding new genetic material into a small, isolated population that has suffered the ill effects of inbreeding. Before genetic restoration, many panthers were diagnosed with heart problems, fertility issues, and low levels of genetic variation. To address these problems, scientists introduced eight female pumas from Texas to breed within the dwindling Florida panther population in 1995.

“We are excited by the success of this project,” said Dr. Dave Onorato, FWC biologist. “We now have a larger, healthier population that more closely resembles what we would have expected to find in the once-widespread Florida panther population before it became reduced in numbers and isolated in South Florida.”

This project has played an important role in the improvements to the health and size of the panther population in Florida. However, other factors, such as land preservation, wildlife underpasses and cooperative agreements between private landowners and non-governmental organizations also contributed to the population increase and will continue to play an important role in the recovery of panthers.

Genetic restoration of the Florida panther has been a multi-agency effort involving the FWC, the National Cancer Institute, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many non-governmental organizations. These agencies worked with world-renowned experts in conservation genetics and the management of large carnivores to produce the Plan for Genetic Restoration in 1994.

Funding for panther research and management conducted by the FWC comes exclusively from fees collected when Florida residents purchase “Protect the Florida panther” specialty license plates. People wishing to replace a license plate with one of these tags can do so at any tax collector’s office.

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Washington (AP) --

In the quest to save the endangered Florida panther, their Texas cousins were the cat's meow. Wildlife biologists moved eight female panthers from Texas,close relatives yet genetically distinct, into south Florida 15 years ago in hopes of boosting reproduction, and the immigration paid off.

Now scientists have created an astonishingly in-depth family
tree of today's panthers to prove the genetic mixing not only left
a bigger population but a healthier one -- offering support for this
type of conservation as biologists struggle save pockets of rare
species the world over.


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  • by Georgia Boy Location: Cairo on Sep 25, 2010 at 04:39 AM
    I think I encountered one of your Florida Panthers up here in south Georgia. While mowing a big cat bounded across a dirt road out of the heavy area I was cutting and into some woods across from it. At least that one wasn't aggressive toward a noisy tractor, but I've told my son and daughter-in-law to carry a gun with them when they walk now. He has a concealed carry permit, by the way. I looked panthers up and the internet says they eat deer, armadillo, and so forth, which also indicates to me they would kill a calf and eat them. Certainly a child would be no match for them.
  • by ETurnage Location: Tallahahassee on Sep 23, 2010 at 10:29 PM
    A puma, panther, cougar, or mountain lion are one and the same. Any differences are inconsequential. These cat's live and thrive in southern California in metropolitan areas. What are we looking for in Florida?
  • by James on Sep 23, 2010 at 02:20 PM
    Genetically distinct in what way? Do the Texas cats have a propensity to be more aggressive towards humans, while the Florida Panther absolutely maintains its distance from any human contact. That is all Florida needs, a cougar problem like some of the mountainous regions do where joggers and children get pulled into the woods by variant cougar species, e.g., mountain lions, etc.
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