US

AP Exclusive: As Florida panther rebounds, study shows ranchers lose calves to the predators

  • FILE- In this Jan. 30, 1997 file photo, An adult male Florida panther growels as he leaves his shipping container to enter his new home at Big Cypress National Preserve, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith, File)

    FILE- In this Jan. 30, 1997 file photo, An adult male Florida panther growels as he leaves his shipping container to enter his new home at Big Cypress National Preserve, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this July 28, 2014 photo, ranch owner Liesa Priddy talks about loosing cattle to panthers attacks in Immokalee, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

    In this July 28, 2014 photo, ranch owner Liesa Priddy talks about loosing cattle to panthers attacks in Immokalee, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this July 28, 2014 photo, a herd of Florida cracker cows and donkeys graze on a ranch on Immokalee, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

    In this July 28, 2014 photo, a herd of Florida cracker cows and donkeys graze on a ranch on Immokalee, Fla. A University of Florida study has found that as the Florida panther population has rebounded, ranchers are loosing more cattle to panther attacks. The study will help determine how to compensate ranchers for their losses. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)  (The Associated Press)

Since Florida's frontier days when cattlemen drove their herds through the state's vast fields and forests, ranchers and native panthers have been natural enemies.

The ranchers seek to nurture and protect their calves, while the panthers see them as prey.

Now, with Florida panthers recovering from near-extinction, a University of Florida researcher has found that panthers are killing calves at a southwest Florida ranch in an area where the panthers are thriving.

In the past, ranchers simply would have shot panthers, but because the 100 to 180 panthers are protected under the Endangered Species Act, they have few options.

The study is a first step toward creating a new program that would pay ranchers for preserving panther habitat rather than trying to verify every calf killed.