Walking for Panthers

~Above photo: FWC public records. FWC officer documents young male Florida Panther hit on Hwy. 710, November 2, 2019. 

I waited a long time to share this photograph. It’s almost too much to take.

This panther was hit and killed November 2, 2019, on Highway 710, less than a mile south of Indiantown in Martin County, Florida. Today I share this photo because of an article I read in TCPalm by environmental reporter, Max Chesnes. The title of the article is Man Walking From Vero Beach to Key West to Tallahassee for Panther Donations.

It is a story of loss and inspiration.

Mr Chesnes explains that when tragedy struck, Mr Steve Fugate “hit the road.” Fugate had lost his son to suicide and his daughter to accidental drug overdose To cope, the 74 year old Vero Beach native, began walking, finding solace and inspiration in Nature along the way…

There are panthers in Martin County.

In 2016, I wrote about one sighted in Allapattah Flats – ten miles west of Palm City, where in fact, SFWDM just held a Ribbon-Cutting. But because Panthers are few and far between compared to the south west coast of Florida, in my opinion, they do not get the government press or the protection via fencing and wildlife underpasses they should here. There is no urgency anyway.

“It was just one hit in twenty years.” I’ve heard. “Most are on the west coast…”

I think there should be signs, underpasses, fencing, and press on the east coast as well. For Mr Fugate and others, every life counts. Thank you to reporter, Max Chesnes and thank you to Mr Fugate, I am inspired!  I will be making a donation on the panther’s behalf! 

TCpalm: In an effort to raise awareness, and funding for the critically endangered Florida Panther, Vero Beach native, Steve Fugate has partnered with the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and started on a nearly three-week, 1,600mile walk around Florida. Photo PATRICK DOVE/TCPALM. Click here for full article. 

Chesnes writes:

“Now, Fugate hopes to give back to the natural world and its inhabitants that embraced him throughout the years. His latest walk, which started Saturday, will take him from Vero Beach — through St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach counties — to Key West, then up Florida’s west coast from Naples to Tallahassee.

The nearly three-week, 1,600-mile journey is meant to raise awareness and funding for the critically endangered Florida panther, he said. 

“They’re just gorgeous animals,” Fugate said of the species, named in 1982 as Florida’s official state animal. There are only an estimated 120 to 230 wild panthers left, according to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

More:FLorida panther deaths map and details”

~Florida Panther, Florida public photo




15 thoughts on “Walking for Panthers

  1. Yes, they are indeed beautiful animals. However, their future in the wild is in serious doubt with the continued population growth in South Florida. 🙁

  2. I read the original article about his walk and was inspired to give as well. Let’s get more people onboard . We need this symbol of Florida roaming our land!

  3. I also saw a panther in the same area several months ago when travelling 710 but was unsure that it really was a panther. I didn’t expect it but now this report convinced me.

  4. It has been many years, but there is a grassy field between the Princess 19-story condo and Shuckers restaurant on the ocean on Ocean drive. A friend whose balcony overlooks that area, saw a panther there one early morning. much later he thinks it was killed further north on Ocean drive by a car. More recently, last year? 4 other neighbors swear they saw a panther eating/killing a fish washed up on the shore. Not a bobcat, they swear. Ocean drive has been torn up many times in the 15 years we have lived here. We wonder over and over why electric lines are not put underground. Would an underground tunnel for panthers/turtles be possible? Thanks for showing the sad photo. let’s hope it helps.

    1. Dear Helen, wow your stories leave me speechless and full of promise. According to historical documents, prior to development panthers and Bears were not uncommon in the area. Certainly a few panthers come back through now and then. The key is to get photos so if you talk to you friends please ask and send to me if possible. I think an underground tunnel, perhaps intermittent, and combined with bridges, wildlife corridors, etc. makes perfect sense and is the right thing to do. The key here is to change/inspire the culture of FPL and FDOT who are absolutely rich to make ALL wildlife part of their planning in all aspects. It would be really good PR for them. I will try to do this! We all can. Thanks so much.

      1. Thanks, Jacqui: I checked yesterday with the man who saw the panther last year. He said it was 4:30 in the afternoon, and he does insist it was a panther, running across the grassy area below his north side condo unit on the 4th floor, not down by the ocean as I wrote (I’m old, and don’t always remember correctly.)
        Though maybe later I’ll ask him about that ocean story, which I know someone here told me.
        (I’m not very socialable, and owners/renters do come and go here.)

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