Conservationists are petitioning the federal government to introduce the Florida panther into Southern Georgia, according to NaplesNews.com. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, the Florida Panther Society and One More Generation are asking that a new population of panthers be established since the current population in Florida has reached its maximum. The current area in south Florida is becoming very small and in order to ensure the survival of the panthers they need to establish a new home.
The new panther home is to be in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia, which is ranked as the most suitable of nine potential sites throughout the southwest. The refuge has 400,000 acres under protection with an abundance of deer and feral hogs for prey, reports the Florida Times Union. The panthers would be able to roam into both states very freely. The second area up for consideration is the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. Both areas are good for the release of the 240 cats, but the petition is only for Okefenokee. A few years ago panthers with radio transmitters were introduced into the area and when the survivors were picked up, the experiment was deemed a success.
However this plan has yet to go forward since many people who are neighbours to the Okefenokee area fear that introducing the panthers there would cause harm to their livestock.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Ken Warren, relocating the panthers takes more than just science – it is also about their larger effect on the human population. Both sides are divided, and they have valid arguments. It remains to be seen what the federal government will decide.