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VERO BEACH, Fla. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are asking anyone with information about a dead Florida panther found Feb. 23, 2011 in the Golden Gate Estates area of Naples, Fla. to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).  Information leading to an arrest and/or conviction could result in a $5,000 reward.

Officials believe the animal was killed intentionally.  “Foul play is suspected in this death, but we can’t reveal too much as this is an open case,” said Andrew Aloise, Resident Agent in Charge of Law Enforcement for the FWS in Florida.  “We and the FWC encourage anyone with information to come forward.”

There are only about 100-160 adult Florida panthers left in south Florida. The Florida panther is protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA), which currently lists the species as “endangered.”  This means the Florida panther is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.  The ESA makes it unlawful for a person to take a listed animal without a permit.  Take is defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect or attempt to engage in any such conduct.”

If convicted criminally, the federal penalty is up to one year of imprisonment, $100,000 fine per individual or $200,000 per organization.  In addition, State of Florida Statute 372.0725 makes it a third degree felony to kill or wound any species designated as endangered or threatened.  The state penalty is up to five years in jail and/or up to a $5,000 fine.

Gabriella B. Ferraro
Public Information Coordinator, FWC South Region
561-625-5122 office
772-215-9459 cell