Florida Wildlife officials say the Florida panther population is growing. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation is looking for new ways to better track the state’s official animal.
Gil McRae, Director of the FWC Research Institute, says there’s a panther abundance in Florida. His research team has been monitoring panthers using camera traps. Although the study is still in its first phase, the field work is complete. McRae says the range for this study spanned 40,000 acres, used 50 cameras, and captured footage for four to five months.
“Almost 180,000 photos taken. Keep in mind that every time the camera is tripped, five photos are taken so you get a lot of photos,” McRae says. “About 88,000 of those 180,000 photos were wildlife including almost 2,200 photos of panthers. In fact, panthers were seen on cameras at 46 of the 50 sites.”
Even with the increase in panther sightings, the animal is not off the endangered list yet. And a large part of the state’s continued research efforts is funding.
Kipp Frohlich is the deputy director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. He says the panther program is funded voluntarily by Florida citizens.
“All those research efforts that Gil talked about and any of the management efforts that I’m going to talk about are funded from the panther license plate. And you can see that in 2014 and ’15 we appropriated about $1.3 million from the license plate fund to run our panther program,” he says.
Frohlich says the panther population has made a significant comeback since the 1970's, but there is still work and effort to be made to continue getting numbers up.