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Big Cats In Florida

WOOD COUNTY, OH (WTOL) – It was a short but bittersweet visit for Kenny Hetrick, owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, as he got to go see his big cats currently being held at a facility down in Florida.”It’s depressing,” Hetrick said. “It’s a depressing place. I don’t like that place. But you know what, I had no choice where they put them.”Last month, Hetrick and the Ohio Department of Agriculture agreed to let Kenny visit his cats in Florida. Kenny was not allowed to take photos or videos. But he said the cats remembered his scent.”To see my White Tiger Emily,” said Hetrick. “Emily was thrilled to see me. She jumped up on the fence and was rubbing the fence and running back and forth. Running back up to the fence. So she definitely recognized me okay.”Kenny said he was okay with the condition of the cats, but believes they’d be happier and better off with him at Tiger Ridge.”It’s kinda scary what the end results are going to be for them cats if I can’t get them out of here,” said Hetrick.On May 30, Kenny’s attorney will go before three judges at the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals. They will decide if Kenny will be getting his big cats back.Follow WTOL: Download our app here. Copyright 2017 WTOL. All rights reserved.
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Of the several species of rodents in Florida, the subspecies of oldfield mouse are the biggest conservation concern, along with the Florida mouse. Six of eight subspecies of the Oldfield mouse (commonly named beach mice) are in endangered status, and one is extinct. Given causes for their demise is predators like cats and red foxes and destruction of their natural habitats. The Florida mouse is on the endangered species list because of destruction of their habitat. The mouse is the only mammal that is endemic to Florida. The rodent depends on the gopher tortoise (also endangered) for its survival, because it makes its burrows from tortoise burrows, or in the absence of those, Oldfield mouse burrows.
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The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is one of the subspecies of cougar. Its main differences from other subspecies are longer legs, smaller size and a shorter darker coat. The skull of the Florida panther is broader and flatter with highly arched nasal bones. Reportedly only seventy adult animals are alive, and a 1992 study estimated that the subspecies would become extinct between 2016 and 2055. It was chosen in 1982 as the Florida state animal by the state’s schoolchildren.
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All Florida black bear in Florida are part of the subspecies Ursus americanus floridanus. Differences between subspecies are very small; the Florida black bear differs from other subspecies by its highly arched forehead and its long and narrow braincase. Estimates for 2002 indicated the number of bears statewide to be between 2,000 and 3,200 individuals, indicating an increase from the previous census in 1998. The biggest cause of concern is roadkill, although the rates of mortality are equivalent to other areas in the country.
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The only native even-toed ungulate is the white-tailed deer. It is the most economically important hunting mammal in all of North America, and is one of the major prey animals of the Florida panther. There were only about 20,000 deer in Florida during the late 1930s, and the species was almost extinct in South Florida due to a campaign to eliminate tick-borne diseases. Hunt restraining measures and purchases from other states were very successful bringing the population to more than 700,000 deer statewide. The smaller subspecies, Key deer, lives only in the Keys and numbers around 800 animals. Sambar deer were introduced in 1908 as alternative game for hunters on Saint Vincent Island. The population is between 700 and 1,000 deers; 130 hunters are licensed per year, and each can kill up to two animals. Some red deer were released from a hunting ranch around 1967 and may still exist as a small herd.
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Florida does not have seal colonies, but stray seals wash ashore in Florida occasionally. The most prevalent of those species have been the common seal and the hooded seal, although a bearded seal was seen in 2007. The Caribbean monk seal was native to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Once a popular prey for Bahamas fishermen, their numbers diminished greatly in the 1800s. The last sighting of the species in Florida was in 1922, and specimens have not been seen anywhere since 1952.
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Of the several whales seen close to Florida, the most frequent and notable visitor is the North Atlantic right whale. Named as such because they were the “right” whales to kill, their only known calving ground is located off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. Pregnant females migrate from feeding grounds located far north and deliver calves from mid December to March. Humpback whales are also re-colonizing the area while gray whales, once cavorting off Florida for the same reasons as the right whales, were extirpated from the Atlantic in the 17th-18th century.
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The Florida panther is the same species as the big cat that roams across much of the Americas and is known by various names, from mountain lion to cougar, puma, and beyond. Yet the population’s unique adaptation to the south Florida environment has earned it special status in biological and cultural history. As a result, the animals are federally protected as endangered.
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Dana BTampa, Florida, United States6743Reviewed 2 weeks ago Feeding Tour was ExcellentThis was a really unique experience. Came very close to a number of big cats. We did the feeding tour and it lasted under an hour. Wish we had gotten more time, but it was a really special place I would visit again.Thank Dana B
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Encounters with the big cats are quite rare, says Tetzlaff, particularly in such close proximity as Dorschel experienced. Still, encounters have been slowly rising as the cats make a comeback.
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Florida has two types of foxes. The native gray fox can be found in the United States almost anywhere, except northern plains and Rockies. It is sometimes confounded with the red fox due to having patches of red hair. The red fox was introduced to Florida by hunting clubs, although it may have been native in the northern panhandle. Its preferred habitats are open areas, while the gray fox prefers woods.
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The remaining species are considered to be colony-roosting bats. Darker than their solitary counterparts and less furry, these bats prefer to live under bridges, in tree holes or caves. Only 3 Florida species live in caves: the eastern pipistrelle, the gray bat and the southeastern myotis. Florida has the highest concentration of southeastern myotis in the world.
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Hogs found their way to Florida in 1539 with Spanish colonist Hernando de Soto. Florida has 12% of the three million hogs that roam in the US. They are a popular hunting prey, but are regarded as a pest due to the damage they inflict to agriculture and environment. More than 21,000 hogs were killed in 1980 alone.
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Wisconsin resident Tina Dorschel was enjoying a hike along a boardwalk in a nature sanctuary in the Naples, Florida, area this week when she received quite a surprise. A Florida panther ran right past her on the path, and she got the whole thing on video.
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Florida panthers have slowly recovered from the brink. Their population plummeted to a few dozen in the 1970s and 1980s, after centuries of hunting and habitat loss. In 1995, eight breeding-age mountain lions were brought in from Texas, the next most similar population. The experiment worked, and Florida panthers have been slowly recovering since.
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The new photos show the cats lurking through lush, palm-tree-dotted lands, the kind of terrain that might seem perfect for panthers, which are known as pumas, cougars or mountain lions in other parts of the country. But Florida is no panther paradise. It has highways where panthers get mowed down, and private lands where ranchers aren’t excited to welcome apex predators, though many are working with the wildlife commission to establish panther-friendly habitat.
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“The panther was surprised and frightened, but it went about its business, so there was no harm and no foul on anyone’s part,” says Luke Dollar, a conservation biologist who helps manage National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. “It was a very special encounter.”
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Those who care about the animals should set their cruise control to avoid speeding, says Tim Tetzlaff, the director of conservation for the Naples Zoo, who has studied the big cats. Driving the posted 45 miles per hour in a three-mile “panther zone” instead of 60 adds just one minute of drive time, he notes.
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This is a list of mammal species found in the wild in the American State of Florida. In total, 98 species of mammals are known to inhabit, or recently to have inhabited, the state and its surrounding waters. This includes a few species, such as the black-tailed jackrabbit and red deer, that were introduced after the European colonization of the Americas. It also includes the extinct Caribbean monk seal. Rodents account for roughly one quarter of all species, followed closely by mammals from the Cetacea and Carnivora families.

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