You are here

Big Cypress National Preserve Officials Crafting Hunting Management Plan For Addition Lands



Officials at Big Cypress National Preserve, which offers one of the last stands for the endangered Florida panther, are crafting a management plan to guide hunting in the big cats' habitat.

Hunting already is allowed throughout most of the southern Florida preserve, which encompasses 720,000 acres, though a hunting management plan specific to the "Addition" lands needs to be prepared. The 147,000 acres of the Addition are located in the preserve's northeastern corner. The lands were acquired by the preserve in 1996, at which point hunting was prohibited pending a general management plan for the Addition.

That plan was adopted early this year. Part of it directed the park staff to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to develop a hunting plan for the Addition that addresses access, hunting seasons, and specific regulations.

With an eye on developing such a management plan, preserve officials currently are taking public ideas on what the plan should contain.

There currently are three options on the table:

* Manage hunting in the Addition as it is managed elsewhere in the preserve;

* Ban hunting in the preserve;

* Rely on an "adaptive management plan" that would be reviewed annually and allow for changes in hunting regulations as needed.

Public meetings to review the current options are scheduled for later this month. One will be held August 30, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Edison State College in Naples, Florida, and another on August 31 at the Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center in Weston, Florida.

You also can submit comments electronically at this site. Public comment is being taken through September 16.

There currently is an effort under way to force Big Cypress officials to withdraw the GMP developed for the Addition lands. A number of groups announced back in March that they would sue the Park Service over the plan, which they said was detrimental to various species, including the Florida panther.

Among the impacts that the Park Service failed to even analyze was ORV traffic and motorized hunting that will significantly diminish available prey for the predatory cat, the groups maintain.

“The National Park Service is well aware of the critical importance of these lands for numerous threatened and endangered plants and animals in south Florida,” Matthew Schwartz of South Florida Wildlands Association said that the time. “The agency could and should have chosen a course of action which puts protection of irreplaceable natural resources above motorized recreation.”

If that lawsuit is successful, it could postpone the current effort to develop a hunting plan for the Addition.


Once again the NPS has caved in to local pressure and national lobbying by folks whose idea of enjoying a resource is destroying it. While local concerns should be listened to, they shoudln't matter any more than the concerns of folks in distant places. Economic concerns shouldn't matter at all.
Congress didn't task the the NPS with protecting our heritage only if it is not economically detrimental, they said, in effect "just do it." The NPS should do what's right for every ecosystem it manages, without regard to what anyone today thinks or how they are affected, the NPS mandate is to preserve "for future generations" not greedy folks today.

"The NPS should do what's right for every ecosystem it manages, without
regard to what anyone today thinks or how they are affected, the NPS
mandate is to preserve "for future generations" not greedy folks today."
The Big Cypress Preserve only exist because the NPS made a deal with the sportsman and other land owners in the area. Otherwise it wouldn't exist. The addition lands are the same.
We use the land and pay for its use through hunting licenses, ORV permits and what not.
The Florida Panther and Bear populations within the park are near maximum density for what the land can support. We need wildlife corridors to promote genetic diversity. You are not going to buy that land with tree hugger money. It comes from outdoorsmen like us who actualy interact with nature.
Florida is doing some pretty good land aquisition with our money. Not yours.
When the addition lands open up it will cut my drive time by an hour. I will still stay on the trails and pick up trash other people drop.
Anyway, you post alot about Big Cypress and I was wondering when you come down and actually spend time in our woods? You'll find some real nice people who know the land well if you'll take the time to visit.

It is very interesting how at this point in time folks with anti-hunting agendas come out to protest hunting in the Addition. They either conveniently forgot, never knew or intentionally don't want to acknowledge that had it not been for hunters - there would never have been a Big Cypress National Preserve (582,000 acres) or the subsequent Addition (147,000 acres).
Hunters working at their own peril with extremists like Matthew Schwartz 20+ years ago saw to it that the Preserve and Addition were protected from full urbanization that would have happened if a new Miami International Airport and monorail leading to it (The Jetport) had been built.
Now those relatively new to the area from afar (as usual) come along 20+ years after the fact beating the war drums to prohibit hunting when a Federal law specifically authorizes it in writing. It is a little bit surprising to me since Matthew Schwartz from SFWA and others who I consider somewhat extreme have been recently telling me and others face to face that "We are not against hunting".
Oh well, so much for the spoken word. Disappointing but that's life which isn't exactly fair.
I guess I was right in
telling folks I discuss these things with on both sides of the fence
that nobody should believe anything but written words and even that is
Intense and I do mean intense study of this issue is the only solution due to so much BS being slung around about it.
My desire would be that those who have not personally studied the issues in great depth just stay out of our South Florida issues and work hard in their own back yards to improve things.
Suggestion to all - do not play with the block quote tool unless u know what you are doing. LOL


Frank - relax buddy.  When you joined me on a Sierra Club hike out to the Addition Lands a few years ago - wasn't it you who said that the area looked "poached out".  Anyway - the NPS and state FWC agree with that perception.  Here are a few excerpts from the General Management Plan that NPS released on the Addition this past November with respect to deer and panther.  Looks to me like this dispute is about opening up the Addition Lands to 650 off-road vehicle permit holders (out of the 65,000 registered off-road vehicles in south Florida - 99 percent will not get a permit) for the purpose of taking approximately 62 deer (see deer estimate below).   Makes no sense - but let's hike in again and take another look.  We had a good time when we went out together.

Generally, deer browse in south Florida is poor because of low fertility and low palatability (Florida Game and Fresh WaterFish Commission [FGFWFC], 1959). In the later stages of  plant succession woody plants and graminoids, which tend to be high in lignin and low in
nutrition, occupy a site. Consequently, deer browse declines as the vegetation
matures. The best deer browse occurs after disturbances that encourage new growth,
because young shoots are relatively high in nutritional value and much more palatable.

Ackerman (1982) found that a cougar in Utah killed a mule deer about each 9.5 days, which equates to 39 mule deer per year per cougar.  Although it is difficult to directly compare kill rates by cougars in Utah with Florida panthers, the scale of predation (e.g., tens of deer per year per panther) may be appropriate where deer are abundant. If this level of predation on deer is a valid assumption, then Florida panthers and hunters may be competing for the same deer. Studies of Florida panther stomach and  fecal contents show wild hogs, rabbits, armadillos, and other small game are also preyed upon, but it is not clear if these prey are preferred or if panthers are forced to prey on smaller game because deer are lacking. If deer are the preferred prey, then predation probably exerts a  significant influence on the deer population.

In 2008 the deer herd in the Northeast Addition north and south of I-75 was estimated to be 133 and 54, respectively (Joe Bozzo, Wildlife Biologist, Florida Fish and Wildlife  Conservation Commission, pers. comm., December 2008).  Typically, up to 33% of the game population can be harvested annually and remain sustainable.

I do not recollect saying that although, I don't doubt it has been happening since the eyes and ears of conservation minded hunters have been banned for over 20 years.

How do you think agencies catch poachers anyway. Do you think they figure out what is happening out in those woods. Once in a while they might but the vast majority of the poaching cases they make start with an honest hunter that helps them so as to protect the game. I know some will say that the selfish hunter just wants to get the same animal later - that's right (good selfish works) but the difference is that the honest hunter takes game by the rules and must trust the management to set the rules correctly. If the management makes mistakes we all suffer but we are all  humans and make mistakes.
Here'a the formula: Legal hunters - poachers = more deer for hunters and panthers.
Gettin late gotta get up and go hunting tomorrow.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide