IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Losing livestock to panthers has been a recurring problem for ranchers, like the ones at JB Ranch, and the state has a new plan to help.
Ranch owner, Liesa Priddy, has been dealing with this problem for 15 years, and says the cost of losing livestock can be significant, especially when cattle prices are high.
“We feel like we lose at least 10% per year. In a moderately priced calving year, you can estimate that we’re losing at least twenty-five thousand dollars,” Priddy explained.
Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Panther Depredation Program will pay cattle ranchers back at market rate for livestock killed by panthers. However, the process requires an FWC officer to come out and find proof of panther involvement, which isn’t always easy.
“The way panthers take their prey is that they kill it and then drag it, usually to a very secluded area,” says Priddy.
But this program will take this into consideration, and FWC will still pay ranchers if they can find other evidence like tracks and drag marks.
Priddy said past attempts to prevent panther predation, such as introducing a more vigilant type of cattle into her herds, have been ineffective due to the ranch's extensive, 1,000-acre landscape, where it's not feasible to shelter the cattle in barns as done in dairy operations.
With this new initiative in place, ranchers in Immokalee say they see it as a step in the right direction to finding the balance between preserving rancher livelihoods and maintaining panther conservation.