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Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Florida panther
The Gainseville Sun, February 13, 2011

Where's Waldo?

Some 15 years ago the capture of a 118-pound wild cat in these parts caused a stir. The animal, dubbed "Waldo," raised some hope that perhaps the endangered Florida panther was making a return.

Scientists eventually decided that Waldo was the offspring of two Texas cougars that had been released into the wild to see if they could survive in Florida.

We're not sure what happened to the Texas cougar experiment, but in southwest Florida what's left of the endangered Florida panther population has been shrinking in numbers as its habitat vanishes under the press of population growth and development.

But maybe there's hope for the Florida panther yet. The U.S. Interior Department is being petitioned by conservation groups to allow the relocation of panthers into the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, on the Florida-Georgia border.

"For the Florida panther to have any chance at long-term survival it needs more than one population in South Florida," Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said this week. "Reintroduction of Florida panthers will aid their recovery and help restore the natural balance in some of the ecosystems in which panthers lived for thousands of years."

Count us among those who had hoped that Waldo was indeed the first of the Florida panthers returning to the northern reaches. It wasn't, but federal wildlife officials should seriously consider reintroducing them into the Okefenokee.

Who knows, Waldo may yet make his way back home to North Florida.

Copyright © 2011 Gainesville.com

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton