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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Two Florida species may be extinct   

TALLAHASSEE, FL - The South Florida rainbow snake and Florida fairy shrimp may have names that sound magical, but the magic may have run out for both of them. A National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report confirms the two unique Florida species are gone forever and, according to Florida NWF General Counsel Preston Robertson, the Florida panther and the manatee could be next.

"The manatee, whose numbers fluctuate up and down our coast and - the other one, of course, is our state symbol - the Florida panther, which used to exist all over the southern United States but is now confined to the counties of southwest Florida."

Only about 100 Florida panthers are known to live in the wild, and the species has been on the endangered list since the 1970s. The manatee, also known as the sea cow, has been listed as endangered since the late 1960s.

Panther and manatee habitat has increasingly been threatened by development, says Robertson, adding that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released research indicating the most crucial and vulnerable panther habitats are currently in Collier and Hendry counties.

"Not to talk politics, but up until the present administration, there was a lot of effort made to protect land, to preserve habitat for the panther, also for water quality protection."

Wildlife preservation advocates point out that if fading panther and manatee populations are protected, the result is that habitat is also protected for bears and a host of other creatures, as well as preserving places where people can enjoy nature, bird-watch, hunt, and fish. 

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