While there have been calls and e-mails to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission from the public about panther sightings in the Panhandle, Kip Frohlich of the FWC said there haven’t been any confirmed for quite some time.
“We’ve gotten calls and -emails in the past, but it’s been many years since we’ve had one verified in that area,” said Frohlich, the head of the Imperiled Species Management Section at the FWC. “To be a verified sighting, you need photos or a cast of a track.”
FWC Spokeswoman Diane Hirth said people often mistake a panther for a bobcat, which is why evidence is needed to confirm a panther sighting.
As for the panther population as a whole, it’s steadily improving, although the Florida panther is still considered an endangered species. It has been on the list since 1967.
“The population is doing better because they are protected by the law. It’s illegal to hunt or kill a panther,” Frohlich said. “The population has been doing a lot better in the last 30 years. We’ve had a lot of success at the FWC in bringing the population back up. A lot of work has gone into making it happen.”
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