FORT MYERS — Wildlife officials say a federal review of the Florida panther's endangered species status will not jeopardize protections for the big cats.
The panther is one of over a dozen animals whose listing status is being reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Panther biologist David Shindle said in a News-Press report that his agency's review aims to gather the best available data on panther biology, habitat and conservation plans, as well as threats to their survival.
Shindle said any change to the panther's status would require separate action from the wildlife service.
Public comments for the panther's review will be accepted through Aug. 29. Officials expect to complete the review by 2019.
The panthers once roamed the entire southeastern United States, but now their habitat mostly is confined to southwest Florida.