Florida Puts Major Law Into Place to Protect Panthers, Wildlife

by Halle Ames

Florida officials have put a major law into place to protect the wildlife areas, specifically the panther population in the state.

Florida’s Governor DeSantis has just signed into law the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act. The act will fund a massive wildlife reserve from the Everglades to Okefenokee, Florida, costing nearly $400 million. The plot of land is also one of the most significant wildlife corridors in the developed world, reports the Good News Network.

Florida Wildlife Corridor Act

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Act will ensure that animals can now travel from the Everglades Estuary to the Georgia and Alabama borders without risk of seeing a single human. The new legislation will also protect existing and new conservation areas, securing natural resources, and more.

Throughout the variety of ecosystems in Florida, nearly 700 different species are endangered. Officials hope that the protected land helps these animal populations level off and thrive. Already, the Florida government has secured $300 million for the reserve. Another $100 will come from a conservation program called Florida Forever. It is the most extensive state-controlled public land acquisition program of its kind in the US.

In addition, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act states it will do all it can for the environment. This includes “maintaining wildlife access to the habitats needed to allow for migration of and genetic exchange amongst regional wildlife populations,” as well as “preventing fragmentation of wildlife habitats” and “providing for wildlife crossings for the protection and safety of wildlife.”

Dwindling Panther Populations

One of the animals that the Florida government hopes to save is the panther. Researchers note it is one of the most endangered big cats on Earth. Furthermore, the panther almost went extinct in the 1970s. Years later, Texas provided genes from their mountain lions. Researchers combined the genes with the panther genes and the panther’s population increased slightly.

According to National Geographic, researchers located a single panther in 2016 north of Lake Okeechobee for the first time in 43 years. This could be huge for the species as it moves north since inbreeding in the southern region has been detrimental to the panther population in Florida.

The panther is Florida’s state animal with only 120 to 130 left in the wild, reports the National Wildlife Federation. The big cats can also grow up to six or seven feet long. However, researchers will only find the panthers along the southwestern tip of Florida, generally in the Everglades. They are the only subspecies of mountain lions that live in the eastern US.

Panthers are carnivores and generally feast on white-tailed deer, feral hogs, raccoons, and other medium-sized mammals and reptiles and birds.

Since the cat is critically endangered, everything from highways, deforestation, inbreeding, and feline leukemia could do even more damage. Hopefully, the Florida Wildlife Corridor Act put some of these worries to rest by taking out the human element.