FWS admits using bad data to determine panther habitat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has admitted to using shoddy science and thrice violating federal law while designating habitat for the endangered Florida panther, thereby allowing giant development projects to proceed within the species’ range. Turns out, the core of the disputed science was a scheduling conflict — with the panthers. In determining the cats’ habitat requirements, the agency depended too heavily on panther range data gathered during late mornings. But panthers are most active at dusk and dawn, not midmorning. As a result, the data “did not represent a complete and accurate picture of Florida panther habitat needs,” said FWS top science adviser Dan Ashe, a member of a panel that reviewed the issue. The service now plans to withdraw and reissue some documents related to the panther’s range and designate habitat differently, but activists fear that 30-some giant development projects may still proceed as planned, within the cats’ stomping grounds. Andrew Eller, the FWS biologist who filed a whistleblower complaint about the flawed data, was fired back in November.