The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and the Center for Biological Diversity are offering $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally shooting an endangered Florida panther. This new amount, along with $5,000 offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pushes the total reward being offered to $15,000.
Investigators are searching for information about the shooting death of the panther, which was first reported on March 22 after a motorist spotted the dead animal on the edge of Immokalee Road, about one mile west of Camp Keais Road. FWC officers determined the panther died from a gunshot wound, with no evidence indicating a vehicle collision. Since 2014, 51 Florida panthers have been discovered dead out of a population estimated at no more than 180. The majority of the deaths were due to human causes, mostly collisions with vehicles.
Kate MacFall, Florida state director for the HSUS, said: “The Florida panther is the single most endangered mammal in the eastern United States, and intentionally killing one is a serious crime under federal and state law. We are so appreciative of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their investigative efforts and we urge anyone with information to come forward.”
“Florida panthers have overcome so much, surviving near-extinction mere decades ago,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. “It’s unimaginable that someone would gun down this incredible animal.”
Harming a Florida panther is a violation of the Endangered Species Act and is punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine per individual or $200,000 per organization. Additionally, killing a Florida panther is a third-degree felony under state law and is punishable by up to five years in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the FWC’s 24-hour Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. For those wishing to remain anonymous, please use Tip@MyFWC.com or go online to MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert.
- There are only 100 to 180 Florida panthers remaining in the wild. Though the animals’ historical range included most of the southeastern United States, they can now only be found in South Florida. Persecution and habitat destruction in the 1800s eliminated most of the population, and inbreeding exacerbated their decline. There were only 20 to 30 panthers left in the wild by 1995, but genetic restoration efforts in the late 1990s tripled the population in 10 years.
- Wildlife officials estimate that nationwide, tens of millions of animals are poached annually.
- It is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement.
- Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.
The HSUS and the Trust work to curb poaching across the country. Visit humanesociety.org/poaching for more information.
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- Media Relations