Panthers in the Suburbs

[The op-ed below appeared in the Westchester Herald (ten or so pages after Ed Koch’s movie review and immediately following  Congressmember Nina Lowey’s piece on health care reform).  It deals with recent sightings of what appear to be a large cat in the New York suburbs.  For some good background on the issue, see this New Yorker article and this piece in a local Hudson Valley newspaper.]

pantherReactions to the unconfirmed sightings of panthers in the Palisades and local townships bring a serious ecological dilemma into focus.  Assuming this animal(s) is an eastern panther and not an escaped exotic pet, it is a member of a population of animals once thought extirpated from the Northeast.  That would make any plan to trap the cat and place it in captivity both ecologically misguided and potentially violative of the Endangered Species Act.  The plan also represents a hyperventilated response to understandable community unease.  It would be much better to slow down and carefully consider the implications of the animal’s presence as well as what to do about it.

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