For Immediate Release, May 7, 2015
Reward Increased to $15,000 for Information About Killing of
Endangered Florida Panther in Collier County
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— In response to the illegal shooting of an endangered Florida panther, The Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity and Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. The pledge, along with a $5,000 reward offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pushes to $15,000 the total reward being offered.
|Photo of Florida panther courtesy USFWS. This photo is available for media use.
Investigators are searching for information about the shooting death of the panther, which was first reported on March 22 after a passing motorist spotted the dead animal. 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.
Said Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The HSUS: “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 those 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 may 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.
Background on Poaching
- 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 with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.
The HSUS and The Trust work to curb poaching across the country. Visit humanesociety.org/poaching for more information.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals and people, and visit us online at humanesociety.org.
Since 1993 the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, alone or in partnership with other conservation groups, has participated in the protection of more than 1.8 million acres of wildlife habitat in 39 states, and nine foreign countries, including 5 acres in Florida. On all properties owned by the Trust or protected by the Trust's conservation easement, both here and abroad, we prohibit recreational and commercial hunting and trapping and restrict logging and development. The Trust's commitment to these principles will never change as we continue to assist caring landowners to make their property permanent, safe homes for wildlife. Join our online community at wildlifelandtrust.org.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.