Sierra Club warns of climate change effects on Florida panther, calls for critical habitat designation
The Sierra Club today is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help the Florida panther survive global warming by protecting its habitat, the non-profit organization announced in the Press Room today. "In many ways, the Florida panther is like the polar bear of the South. Because of its low-lying and exposed habitat, the panther is extremely vulnerable to global warming," said Sierra Club Representative Frank Jackalone. "In order to survive sea level rise and other impacts of climate change, panthers need to be able to migrate to new ground." In other words, Sierra Club has joined the Center for Biological Diversity, who previously filed a petition to designate 4,860 square miles – roughly 3 million acres – to be protected as critical habitat in southern Florida.
Florida panthers have appeared in other news reports this month. Coincidentally, earlier today, an anonymous caller reported seeing a dead Florida panther by the side of the Florida Turnpike near Yeehaw Junction -- more than 150 miles north of where most panthers live -- but when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staffers checked out the tip, they discovered a decapitated animal. Although the big cat appeared to be hit by a car, FWC posted a reward for information leading to an arrest. As noted on Big Cat Rescue, traffic presents a continuing threat to the species.
Still, despite today's unfortunate incident, long-term hope remains for the species. The U.S. Army Corps announced the award of a $53-million construction contract Nov. 4 for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project as part of Everglades restoration in Collier County, Fla. "This latest step by the Corps underscores our federal commitment and sets the future of the Picayune Strand in motion. Our endangered Florida panther and many other species will benefit," said Paul Souza, field supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida Office. "Four decades ago, this area was slated to become a suburb of Naples. But today, because of leadership shown by our Everglades partnership, we're one step closer to achieving its restoration potential."
For more information about the potential effects of global warming and sea level rise on the Florida panther, visit irreplacablewild.org an Earthjustice project, and Florida Wildlife Commission, On the Front Lines of Climate Change, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence
Photo above from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, available online from University of Florida