If you are like most Americans, your pet is a beloved member of the family. Having your pet injured or killed by a wild animal can be a tragic and traumatic event.
Reports of negative interactions with Florida wildlife are on the rise, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to remind Florida residents and visitors to protect their pets and livestock from wildlife depredations. Florida is unique among states in the eastern U.S. due to the fact that most of the native predators still roam here. This includes panthers, bears, alligators and bobcats. Many negative interactions with Florida wildlife can be prevented by taking the appropriate precautions.
Safety measures should be taken to protect pets, like dogs and cats, by keeping them indoors at night, on a leash or in an outdoor predator-proof pen.
Cats are a particularly easy target since there are a variety of predators that prey on them, including panthers and coyotes as well as bobcats and even dogs. Keeping your cat inside not only protects it from becoming prey but it also prevents it from preying on songbirds and other native wildlife.
People should also take necessary precautions to properly shelter animals such as goats, sheep, calves, pigs, donkeys and poultry from wildlife depredations. Livestock can be protected by keeping them in a secure fenced enclosure with a roof, especially at night. Electric fencing is also an effective deterrent to prevent depredations on domestic animals.
Coyotes are well documented throughout Florida and live in all 67 counties. They are extremely adaptable and are found in rural, suburban and even urban areas around the state.
Both coyotes and bears are attracted to a variety of food sources such as unsecured trash, bird and wildlife feeders and pet food left outside. However, because bears are opportunistic feeders, depredations of pets or livestock are more often caused by more active predators such as panthers or coyotes.
While panthers don’t eat trash and pet food, they will eat the animals that are attracted to these items. Panthers are typically found in southwest Florida, but they are starting to be reported with more frequency in other parts of the state.
“We are asking people to proactively take precautions by removing attractants and protecting and securing their pets and small livestock from predators,” said Kipp Frohlich, FWC’s Deputy Division Director of Habitat and Species Conservation. “By taking these actions today, people can help discourage panthers, coyotes and other predators from repeatedly coming back into their yard or community looking for easy prey.”
When feeding outdoor domestic animals, be sure to only put out enough food for the animal to eat immediately and then remove any uneaten food as soon as possible. Keep all food sources stored in a secure location when not in use to reduce the likelihood of conflicts between your animals and bears and other wildlife.
For more information about how to protect people, pets and livestock from panthers and other predators, visit FloridaPantherNet.org and click on “Living in Panther Country.”