The First Florida Panther Festival  


We attended the first Panther Fest held at North Collier Regional Park in Naples, it ran from 10 to 4pm on Saturday October 29 2011, some special festival events had been held in other field locations during the week. South Florida had had some stormy weather, but it turned out to be a very nice day, with a good turn out of folks.      


Booths featured table displays from many local conservation and advocacy groups, Gov & Federal agencies working for and with the panther. Displays were set up in an air conditioned pavilion with an outdoor food court, in one of the indoor halls they had Blue grass musicians playing. Throughout the day were trail events, speakers, & a play area featuring panther games & activities for kids. Many of the biologists & panther capture team members were there to talk with. One of the presentations I missed was: Orchids and their place in panther habitat, maybe they will do it again next year.


We got to the festival in time to listen to Deb Jansen speak on: "Sharing Big Cypress". A discussion & slide show depicting flora & fauna in the region, trails & outdoor activities available in the preserve, which is one of the prime habitat areas for the Florida panther. She also discussed how they monitor panthers in the preserve & showed footage from panther captures. 


Then we joined Big Cypress park ranger Lisa Andrews for the: "Panther Mile Hike". A walk & talk, which featured a number of outdoor displays presenting various aspects of the panther, including animal skins, habitat & daybed use, Radio telemetry, Capture equipment & technique, & track identification.      


Panther biologist Mark Lotz presented: "Panthers and People". Highlighting the ways people may & do interact with panthers, how to make that a better and more positive experience, what to do if you meet a panther, and how to house and protect your animals from predation. He showed a slide of a panther which had been hit by a car, road injures and deaths are an ugly aspect of the panthers life. Seeing animals hit on the road has always had an impact on me and this slide no less so, bringing home how great the danger is and how far reaching one death can be.     


Defenders of Wildlife had a small livestock pen on display, and information for people illustrating ways to keep your pets & livestock safe. 


I did not see any information in reference to and no discussion on - "where do we go from here?" regarding the restoration plan which calls for three breeding populations of panthers, within Florida or in other parts of its Historic range. Currently there are no agency plans for establishing panthers in other locations, and no agency plans for specific education toward that end. So there is room for public discussion, education, & presentations on the possibilities and dynamics of puma rewildling.


I enjoyed the festival, it gave me confidence in the information I provide in my panther talks, and I got to check out the equipment and learn about Radio telemetry & panther capture, a side of the panther equation I new little about.   


The organisers and participants did a good job to address many of the problematic issues panthers & people face with each other, and provide educational information on the history and lives of the local panther population currently living in South West Florida.    

It was good to learn that the men & women who work with the panthers, are dedicated individuals who seem to care about the animals they are responsible for.  


T H A N K S !