FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- State officials say the Florida panther population seems to be on the rise.
During a board meeting on Wednesday, the director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's research institute said recent estimates show there may be as many as 180 panthers in the wild.
The Naples Daily News reports that officials caution that as the panther population increases, they'll run into more conflicts with humans. Wildlife officials are exploring several programs designed to encourage private landowners to welcome panthers on their property.
The panther hovered on the brink of extinction in 1994 when there were only between 20 and 30 panthers.
The Florida panther is on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's endangered species list. To move to the threatened list requires two separate populations of 240.