Georgia man sentenced to 2 years probation for killing Florida panther

Florida panther killed by David Adams in Troup County, Ga., on Nov. 16, 2008.

Georgia DNR

Florida panther killed by David Adams in Troup County, Ga., on Nov. 16, 2008.

An endangered Florida panther from Southwest Florida turned up dead in rural Georgia in 2008.

The man who shot and killed the 140-pound wildcat from a tree stand during a deer hunting trip pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Atlanta.

David Adams, 60, who now lives in southern Ohio, was sentenced to two years’ probation and was fined $2,000. He cannot hunt or obtain a hunting license anywhere in the United States while he is on probation.

He had faced up to a year in prison and $100,000 in fines for killing an endangered species, a violation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The sentence did not seem stiff enough for at least one panther advocate.

“It just doesn’t seem fair to the panther and to the panther population,” said Laurie Mcdonald, Florida director for Defenders of Wildlife.

The male panther’s trek from Southwest Florida raised hopes that another panther population could get a foothold in the Southeast, something on which its survival depends.

Listed as an endangered species since 1961, the panther’s population has been growing in South Florida since it dipped below 30 panthers in the 1980s.

Scientists transplanted female cougars from Texas to rebuild the panthers’ gene pool, and the population has grown to as many as 160 panthers, according to state estimates.

A larger population is running out of room in Southwest Florida as development and roads cut into its habitat.

The panther, killed in Troup County, Ga., southwest of Atlanta, had its roots in Southwest Florida.

Genetic testing showed its father roamed the Okaloacoochee Slough in Hendry County until the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lost track of him in 2009.

That panther, known as FP137, had been captured and collared with tracking devices three times since 2005. The last collar stopped working in 2009, Conservation Commission panther biologist Mark Lotz said.

FP137’s traveling offspring did not have a tracking collar, and Georgia wildlife officials at first theorized that he had escaped from captivity.

Lotz said the 500-mile journey from Southwest Florida is well within the possible range of a roaming panther.

In 2008, the longest known trek by a cougar was 600 miles. That mark was obliterated earlier this year when a cougar from South Dakota was killed on a Connecticut road -- some 1,200 miles away.

The Georgia panther died after Adams shot the panther on its right side, in the rear portion of the rib cage just below the spine, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources investigated the killing.

“We’re just happy the Department of Justice continued to pursue this case and took it to its conclusion,” Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Tom MacKenzie said Wednesday.

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