In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed a population increase for the Florida panther, or Puma concolor coryi. Only a couple dozen remained in the 1980s, but the population has been increasing steadily since 1995. Florida officials are confident that they are and will continue making good progress with panther management.
Population estimates are now between 120 and 230, rising from the 2014 estimate of 100 to 180. While tracking any large feline population is difficult, panther estimates are especially challenging since these cats do not have unique spot or stripe patterns that help identify individuals. For the 2017 panther count, biologists and researchers used data from collared individuals, road kill reports, trail cameras and track observations.
The Federal Recovery Plan requires two populations of 240 panthers before the subspecies status can change from Endangered to Threatened. Despite complaints from ranchers about increased livestock loss and from hunters about fewer deer, there are no plans to change current conservation plans to include hunting or other options to monitor growth.
Eleven panther deaths have been documented in 2017, and eight of them were vehicle-related. Officials recognize that updated policies and strategies will be required for new challenges that arise as the panther population continues to increase.