State wildlife officials are asking the public to report any sightings of endangered Florida panthers moving north into Polk County.
Fewer than 200 panthers remain in the wild, mostly in southwestern Florida. The big cats roam over long distances, and state biologists say that as their population grows, panthers will need to move into central Florida.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission panther specialist Jennifer Korn tells The Ledger (http://bit.ly/1UQEOpM ) that so far, all the panthers found north of the Caloosahatchee River have been males looking for females and unoccupied territory.
She says residents need to "get ready for more cats someday."
About three dozen cameras watch for panthers along wildlife corridors in Polk and 13 other counties north of the Caloosahatchee River. Panther sightings can be reported at www.MyFWC.com/PantherSightings.
Information from: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), http://www.theledger.com