Segment: Fish and Game Commissions' involvement with Florida Panther

Source: Lecture by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Fort Lauderdale, May 6, 1983. Produced by Florida International University Learning Resources for FIU/FAU Joint Center

Link to Audio: SPC930_16

Length of Segment: 00:06:38

(This following portion is from SPC933.  There is no complete lecture on any CDs; they are broken off onto three SPC numbers: SPC930, SPC 931 and SPC933.)

So, anyway, we have not only the oil people in the Big Cypress, we have the hunters. And we have the hunters in the Big Cypress all over everywhere. However, they are not supposed to shoot for panther.  But the panther, which is now very limited; you’ve been reading a lot about the panther, of course, recently. Officially, there are only about two, ah, twenty left, they’re more than that, but still there are very few. And the Florida Fish and Game Commission got some money, from the oil people and the Federal Government. The Fish and Game Commission is a semi-autonomous body, related to the constitution; a very old one. So, it cannot be controlled by the government and cabinet. It’s almost  something of its own. And, they got this idea that they wanted to study the panther. So, they got a large sum of money and what they did to study the panther was to import a man and a team of dogs from Texas, where they’ve been killing what panther they have there, because it’s been eating the deer, ah, sheep or whatever it is they eat in Texas. They brought the man and his dogs over here. They chased the panther up a tree and then they shoot him with a, at a distance of twelve feet or so, with a dart.  It’s an anesthetic. The panther is tranquilized and he falls, lucky for him if, lucky, if he falls into a net and if there’s no net or if the net stretches then he crashes to the ground and panthers have been known to break bones  in that fall. So, then they put a collar on him that have batteries and beepers and they let the panther go. Then once a week, for a week every month, a helicopter goes up, over the Big Cypress and it’s got...

(This portion is from SPC931 continues where SPC933 left off.  There is a significant difference in audio quality.)

...something that records the beeps, so they can hear the beeps on the panther and they say, ‘Oh yes, it’s number ten panther down there, behind that clump of trees.  That’s how they learn about panther.  What they learn about panther I can’t imagine, beyond where they may be at the moment.  This is supposed to be very important, but in the process, they were shooting a panther at twelve feet. Now, when you go and get a hypodermic, from a doctor, he doesn’t stand twelve feet off and shoot at you.  You know, he very carefully tries to find a vein and put it in and, you know, it has to be done with care, but they just shoot ‘em.  So a panther, now there’s a differing story, and they’re either shooting at one panther and hitting another,  which I don’t think is the best shooting I’ve ever heard of, at twelve feet, or that panther was struck in an artery not a vein. How, at twelve feet, can you distinguish between a panther’s arteries and his veins?  I don’t know.  Also, they say it was an overdose or they say the panther was allergic. Well, whatever it was, the panther died. Now then, I am perfectly certain that two of the panthers have been killed. One, with the collar on it and one disappeared and eventually the beeping stopped and they found the panther, with the collar on it, drowned, Now, I betcha the collar had something to do with it, but of course, the Fish and Game say, ‘Oh, no no doesn’t have anything to do with us.’  The panther had a collar on it!  Why it’s important to study panther with collars, I cannot understand. What I mean is; if you, a panther with a collar isn’t the same thing as a panther without a collar. It is a less wild, natural animal and they have no idea, yet, whether the collar interferes with the breeding relationships. Why not?  These are very sensitive animals and certainly all this tramping around, with dogs, and incidentally, in the process of chasing the panther, with a pack of dogs that are silent, they flush bobcats. Now, the bobcat will not tree, the way a panther will. It turns and fights, the poor little thing. It’s a smaller animal than the panther, but a more fighting character. It fights and five dogs can kill it immediately. So, for just about every panther they’ve treed, they’ve killed at least one bobcat and then the man gives the dead bobcat to the dogs to eat.  How do you like that? I don’t! Anyway, this is the situation that’s been going on and I’ve been in correspondence with Colonel Brantley of the Fish and Game Commission, of course you know what he thinks of me. I’m one of those horrible old women in tennis shoes, you know, who’s supposed to get… who get hysterical about something that’s none of my business. This is masculine business, you know.  Women can’t intrude on this. This is hunting! This is the immemorial privilege of the male, which supplies the female with food, as indeed it did all those centuries. But thank goodness you don’t have to depend on your husbands to go out and shoot a deer, to get his dinner, anymore. So, that I am supposed to be a perfectly silly old woman, objecting to this panther thing, but it’s been killing off the panthers and I don’t like it! So, thank goodness it’s been stopped until January and Senator Neil, of Bradenton, a very nice man, who seems to see what I’m talking about, about the panther collaring and all, had just offered a bill which passed the senate committee, unanimously, last week and will go before the senate, or has gone already, this week, to set up a committee, really, to study the whole panther situation. And I hope that it will not, in fact, if they put that committee under the Colonel Brantley, of the Fish and Wildlife, I am simply going to explode. And I’m going to go up and shoot ‘em, every one of them, because they have no business to do that,  We’ve got to have an objective committee to study the panther. We’ve got to have people who know panther, not just the Fish and Game thing. I’m really declaring war on the Fish and Game Commission. Holding my breath, ‘til we see. I don’t know whether the Governor appoints that committee, I think he does, but I’ve got to find out if it’s under control of the Fish and Game Commission, in which case we’ve got to begin the process all over again and do something different.