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Virginia Tech Wildlife Professor Helping To Save Florida Panther


BLACKSBURG, Va., Feb. 12, 2003 – With few Florida panthers now in existence, Mike Vaughan, Virginia Tech professor of wildlife and sciences in the College of Natural Resources, has been appointed to serve on the Florida Panther Scientific Review Team (SRT). Vaughan and other SRT members have made several trips to Naples, Fla., to interview state and federal biologists directly involved with the recovery of the Florida panther.

Currently the SRT is in the stage of reviewing literature and scientific research from the past twenty years on this endangered species. After evaluating the veracity of the conclusions, the researchers will prepare a report for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida panther team to use as they develop a recovery plan.

The scientists began their research last summer and hope to issue their report by June of this year. Vaughan and three other scientists make up the SRT. They include Michael Conroy of the University of Georgia, Paul Beire from the University of Arizona in Flagstaff, and Howard Quigley of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The endangered Florida panther is a large, long-tailed cat with a great deal of color variation that once inhabited many southeastern states and the lower Mississippi River Valley. The Florida panther is a subspecies of what Virginians and others call the cougar or mountain lion. Of all North American cat species, the Florida panther is the most endangered.

Numerous sightings of the Florida panther are reported each year, but it is unlikely that the population of these panthers exists outside of Florida. Vaughan says, " Approximately 75 to 85 Florida panthers are left in the wild."

"The Florida panther continues to be a victim of habitat loss, environmental contaminants, motor vehicles collisions, prey scarcity, and even immune deficiencies," Vaughan explains. "The SRT report will help those directly responsible for the recovery of the Florida panthers determine the most effective way to save this endangered species."

To obtain more information on the Florida Panther Scientific Review Team contact Mike Vaughan at (540) 231-5046, or mvaughan@vt.edu.

Written by Tara Laffey, University Relations Intern



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