FWC offering reward for information about mutilated Florida panther

Wildlife officials are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information about the intentional killing of an endangered Florida panther.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the reward Thursday.

A female panther was found dead east of Immokalee in Collier County on March 8, during the opening weekend of the spring turkey hunting season in south Florida.

A forensic examination of the panther carcass and other evidence indicated that the panther was intentionally killed and partially mutilated a day earlier, FWC officials said. The carcass was then transported at night and dumped in the area where it was recovered.

Florida panthers are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Intentionally killing a Florida panther is punishable by up to one year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.

Officials are asking anyone with information about the panther’s death to contact the commission or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.