Florida panther livestock kills rise in Golden Gate Estates


GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, Fla. Jeanette Vassallano has been working tirelessly to keep panthers from terrorizing her hobby farm, saying she’s losing sleep, as well as thousands of dollars in infrastructure and livestock.

“It’s just a thrill kill,” she said. “Nothing was eaten..nothing.”

Tristin Johnson, who also owns animals on Vasallano’s farm, shares her sentiment.

“It’s about as frustrating as it gets,” he said. “The rebuilding isn’t the bad process, it’s going back and restocking your animals every time.”

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have worked to increase the Florida panther population, as there’s less than 200 left in the wild.

However, the panthers’ rebounding population has led to increased livestock kills in the area.

The conservancy recommends using pen enclosures as the best protections for those who keep hobby livestock as panther encounters become more common.

“Florida panthers have lost tens of thousands of acres of habitat over the last several years,” said Amber Crooks, a senior environmental policy specialist at the conservancy. “These developments are going further into their habitats.”

But Vasallano and Johnson believe the panthers will still find a way to slaughter their animals.

“Basically everything you do, it’ll figure out a way, even if it takes days,” Johnson said. “It’ll figure out a flaw in the property and that’s that.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working with Vasallano to trap the panthers and have installed game cameras on her property.

The conservancy offers a special program to help offset the cost of covered pen enclosures that deter panthers.

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