Florida panther considered threat to humans will eventually be held in captivity, not killed

Chad Gillis
Fort Myers News-Press

A male Florida panther may soon be be removed from a Collier County farm after being labeled a threat to humans by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

"We’ve determined that (Florida panther) 260 should be removed from the wild due to the number and frequency of livestock depredations and concerns for human safety," FWS spokesman Chuck Underwood wrote in an email to The News-Press. "There are no plans to kill FP260." 

A commentary piece from writer Craig PIttman in Florida Phoenix last week said the agency was ready to kill the panther.

It's been all over social media, but that's about all as the FWS has not posted it on their website or distributed an official media release about the panther. 

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A male panther runs after being released by state biologists in April 2013. Another male panther, FP 260, was treated and released as well but could soon be placed in captivity.

The panther is currently near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Big Cypress National Preserve, likely on the JB Ranch in Immokalee, owned by former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission member Liesa Priddy. 

Meredith Budd, with the Florida Wildlife Federation, said FP 260 should not be removed from the wild. 

"It appears the protocols in that plan were not necessarily followed and the entire team was not consulted to make that decision," Budd said. "The panther's behavior is not abnormal. It's simply preying on the food source that's most frequent there." 

Priddy could not be reached for comment, but the manager of the JB Ranch FB page, who appeared to be posting as Priddy, said the cat had to be removed. 

ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa has been raising a pair of male Florida panther kittens. The kittens ended up at the zoo after their mother had to be euthanized due to a neurological disorder that has been seen in the large cats. A male Florida panther (No. 260) may soon be captured by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and placed in captivity.

"Who among you would not feel the need to take some action to protect your livelihood," a Facebook post from the JB Ranch from Monday reads. "As individuals, the (Endangered Species Act) prevents us from taking matters into our own hands, so asking the FWC and FWS for help is the only option. After several hazing attempts proved unsuccessful, the decision was made to relocate FP260 to an appropriate facility or to euthanize him."

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Priddy helped write a controversial draft panther position paper in 2017 that basically said the state was no longer willing to help reintroduce the panther to areas north of Lake Okeechobee or commit to other goals under the panther recovery plan. 

Florida panther 260 is no stranger to her lands. 

He was hit near Priddy's ranch along Interstate 75 years ago, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. 

Soon, he was at Priddy's ranch again. 

Underwood said the panther will not be euthanized, as was reported by other media organizations. 

"It is the goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners to avoid any such scenario," Underwood wrote. "FP260 is a suitable candidate for permanent captivity. Work is ongoing to place FP260 at a facility that would care for him at their expense."

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.