December 16, 2005
An investigation by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
officers has confirmed an Immokalee homeowner’s report that a
Florida panther killed his pet
Chihuahua. The attack occurred around 8 p.m., Dec. 12.
The homeowner said he shined a light out of his window after hearing the
dog yelping. He said a few minutes later the panther retreated to the woods
with the small dog. The homeowner reported the incident to the FWC, which
dispatched law enforcement officers to investigate.
When officers arrived, the panther and dog were gone, but there was blood
on the ground. An officer and a biologist returned to the scene the
following morning and found the fresh tracks of a male Florida panther.
Before the attack, the Chihuahua and another pet dog were tethered by a
cable in the side yard of the residence near adjacent woods. There was no
fence between the dogs and the forest area. The property is surrounded by
many acres of wildlife habitat, connected to areas often used by panthers.
This is the second report of a Florida panther attacking a domestic dog in
20 years. The last one was in the late 1980s, however, the dog involved in
that attack was not seriously injured. In 2004, a Florida panther killed
two domestic goats and an emu near Ochopee.
Interactions between Florida panthers and humans are rare. The cats hunt at
night and generally are afraid of people. There has never been a reported
injury or death of a human caused by a Florida panther.
FWC law enforcement officers are paying repeat visits to the site where the
dog attack occurred. The homeowner told officers he was particularly
concerned because the family runs a small daycare center out of the house
during the day. However, he said the family has taken measures to ensure
the safety of the children.
Panther experts advise parents living in Florida panther country to watch
children whenever they play outdoors, and make sure they are inside before
dusk and not outside before dawn. Parents should also talk with children
about Florida panthers and teach them what to do if they encounter one –
specifically, not to approach the cat, not to run and not to crouch down
(which would make children appear smaller).
The Florida panther has been recognized as an endangered species for nearly
40 years. Experts believe there are between 70 and 100 living in the wild.
Scientists use radio collars to monitor the movements and behavior of about
a third of the known Florida panther population.