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Hundreds of Panther Sightings Reported in Florida

Aug 16, 2013 08:19 AM EDT

About 790 Florida panther sightings have been reported at a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) website this year.

The website was launched a year ago and allows people to report panther sightings in the region. The agency said that as of August 2013, about 790 panthers have been seen roaming the region.

"The public's willingness to share what they have seen or collected on game cameras is incredibly helpful and shows us where panthers presumably are roaming in Florida. We thank everyone using the Report Florida Panther Sightings website and encourage others to participate in this citizen-science venture," said Darrell Land, who heads the FWC's panther team.

About 12 percent of all reports had photographic evidence that helped Commission biologists verify the sightings.

Bobcats, dogs, foxes and even a monkey were identified by the researchers while verifying the authenticity of panther sightings.

The confirmed reports of panther sightings were confined to Southwest Florida, which is known to have many panthers.

The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) was the first species added to the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1973 as their numbers declined during the 1970s. There are currently about 100 Florida panthers left in the wild.  These cats are found in southern Florida in swamplands such as Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

"As the population of this endangered species grows, the FWC expects more Florida panthers to be seen in areas of the state where they have not lived for decades," Land said in a news release. "To properly plan and manage for the expansion of the panther's range in Florida, information about where the panthers are is vital."

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