In November 2016 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) confirmed they spotted a female Florida panther north of the Caloosahatchee River (think near Lake Okeechobee) . "Who cares?", you say. The article below will help teachers answer a lot of "Why do we need to know this?" questions in class.
Student question: Why do we need to learn to identify tracks? Why is it so important?
The FWC had suspected that there was a female north of the river but could not prove it. Trail cameras couldn't clearly identify a female. Plus, because female panther tracks are about the same size as juvenile males when they found the suspected tracks they couldn't positively identify them as female or juvenile male. The November sighting is important because by this point in the year juvenile male tracks are bigger than females which helps positively identify the tracks.
The FWC also knows from experience female Florida panther tracks are larger than bobcat tracks further helping identify these tracks.
Student questions: Why do we need to learn about habitats and conservation?
The panther is Critically Endangered and in 2013 it was reported that only 160 existed in Florida. The FWC knew male panthers were north of the river but couldn't identify females in that area. Now that both are present they believe a breeding population will hopefully establish and extend the range of the panther. The panther is also a large carnivore for Florida and necessary to keep the food chain in balance.
Teacher questions: How can I use this article in class?
At a basic level this can be a bell ringer activity. Have the article displayed on your Smartboard or projector for them to read as class begins. This article can be used when learning track and prints, or when you are discussing wildlife conservation or wildlife habitats and ecosystems.
Please ask questions or let us know how you used this idea for your class. I would really like your perspective. Come find us on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter and now Snapchat (oltaged). You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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