Regular Florida folk like yourself have been a big help in keeping the Florida Panther safe and its population intact, even if most of you apparently can't tell a panther from a monkey.
But, hey. It's working, so...
Last year, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a website for people to log in info on panthers they may have spotted on the side of the road, or in the wilderness, to help the commission keep tabs on the felines.
However, a new FWC report says that only 12 percent of the data submitted were photos of panthers. The rest of them were reports of other animals that people confused for panthers -- such as foxes, coyotes, dogs, and cats.
Some reports were of monkeys.
Really, Florida? MONKEYS?
Well, in spite of people not being able to tell a panther from a monkey, the FWC says the public reporting has been helping its biologists track panthers and their fragile population.
Last count has the population around 100 to 160. But the good news there is that the number has been steadily growing.
The trick is that panthers are loners and tough to spot. They also don't leave much of a track. So the public's help is a good thing.
From the Palm Beach Post:
Most of the verified reports to the FWC's website were from southwest Florida, the well-established breeding range for Florida panthers. But a few of the verified sightings were north of Lake Okeechobee, an indication that panthers could be roaming farther to find food and establish territory.
The website encourages people who might find panther tracks, or spot a panther in the wild, to submit info on it. There's also a Google map tool on the site that people can use to zoom in on a location and pinpoint the coordinates. The FWC then studies the data before it can verify it.
Of course, the FWC does ask people to exercise caution if they happen to spot a panther. Such as, you know, don't sneak up on it. And, of course, keep your distance.
You would think these are common-sense rules, but a lot of you out there apparently think you see a panther when you spot a monkey, so it's important to be clear.
You can check out FloridaPanther.net for more info.