Wild Panthers May be Moved to Arkansas

FEBRUARY 6, 2006 - Posted at 8:02 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say that only if there's support among Arkansans for relocation of Florida panthers to the Natural State will the big cats get a chance to find out if they like these parts.

What are now called Florida panthers once ranged across the Southeast, including Arkansas.  Now, they occupy less than five percent of their original habitat.  The only breeding population is in a rapidly developing part of south Florida.

Arkansas wildlife officials have said the panthers wouldn't be welcome in Arkansas, although they once lived here.

The federal government is considering nine sites, including four in Arkansas.  Those are in the Ozark and Ouachita national forests, the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge east of El Dorado, and outside Monticello.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)