We were lucky enough to attend the PCAT Workshop, held in Dec 2011
at the Big Cypress Welcome Center auditorium, the weekend was organized by Defenders of Wildlife. About 20 participants attended
from around the state.
The workshop was for the
purpose of training a group of Florida volunteers to help with Florida panther outreach, which include: education
about the panther, husbandry and safe housing of pets & livestock, checking on possible panther sign for concerned residence,
and generally interfacing on behalf of panthers with the general public, assisting Agencies involved in protecting
the Florida Panther.
Organizations that participated and shared their knowledge and expertise during the weekend were: Defenders of Wildlife,
National Parks Service, Florida Wildlife Commission, Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, & Keeping Track.
It was a great weekend. Saturday
was spent in the class room, with introductions and presentations by members and staff of the above organizations, with
some additional information on Florida Black Bear response & outreach. On Sunday we spent the day in the field, instructed by
Susan Morse of "Keeping Track, & Lisa Andrews of the NPS, on wildlife tracking & sign. It was fun, educational,
and yes we got to document panther and other animal tracks!
There are still wild areas that have been determined as having suitable habitat within
Florida and other states, these areas were original haunts of panthers before the great slaughter of these animals took place.
Panthers were killed en-mass out of sheer ignorance, fear & greed.
Panther reintroduction has been put on the table. As an endangered species, re-populating
the panther throughout parts of its native range is a requirement, and a necessary outcome of the Florida panther recovery
plan. In my opinion, so far, steps toward this end have been extremely limited if not in some cases obstructed.
the PCAT workshop as an important and encouraging step to moving panthers forward on the path to recovery.
Folks are unfamiliar with this native cat of ours, panthers have been
missing from their old lands for so long, they have become strangers to people, and few would be willing to welcome a stranger
into their home. Education should provide honest upfront introductions; present facts, dispel fears. We need to get re
acquainted, learn how to live together again, this time with knowledge and a sense of compassion.