Florida Panthers In The Florida Everglades
FLORIDA PANTHERS IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES
The Florida panther – Puma concolor coryi is an endangered subspecies of cougar. The deforestation and spread of development brought on by European settlers were the original cause of the decline in their numbers. In the 1970s, there were only approximately 20 left in the wild. Today, their numbers have increased to an estimated 200 in the wild.
FLORIDA PANTHER HABITAT
Historically, Florida panthers ranged across the southeastern United States, in lands spanning across Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina.
Today, panthers live in the forests and swamps of South Florida, and these cats can be found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and mixed swamp forests. Male panthers have a home range of 200 square miles on average, while females span less area, averaging about 75 square miles.
SIZE & APPEARANCE
If you manage to see some of these creatures aboard one of our Everglades boat rides, their size will be most striking to you. Florida panthers, which is an American cougar, are spotted at birth and typically have blue eyes. They can weigh up to 160 pounds, while adult females weigh up to 100 pounds. On average, males are 9.4% longer and 33.2% heavier than females because of their rapid growth rate and later maturity.
The Florida panther is a carnivore whose diet consists of small and large animals. Their smaller prey consists of hares, mice, and waterfowl, while their larger game includes white storks, deer, wild boar, and sometimes, alligators. In their place at the top of the food chain, these mammals help keep feral hog numbers in check and deer, raccoon, and other prey populations balanced and healthy.
Endangered Status of the Florida Panther
Florida panthers are the only mountain lion subspecies that still exists in the eastern United States. In 1832, they became subject to extensive hunting after the establishment of a panther bounty, claiming thousands of Florida panthers. Hence, they became one of the first species to be placed on the U.S. endangered species list in 1973 because hunting severely destroyed the Florida panther populations.
Currently, the Florida panther is classified as endangered. There are fewer adult panthers (including male panthers and female panthers.) It is projected that only 20 to 30 Florida panthers existed in the Florida panther habitat as of the 1970s.
Currently, there are less than 200 in the Big Cypress National Preserve, as the loss of prime panther habitat is currently the biggest challenge to the remaining panther population in South Carolina and southwest Florida.
Because of how seriously endangered the subspecies is, it is susceptible to almost all primary threats. Also, low genetic diversity is a concern because the population is so small in the southeastern United States.
Following the Federal Endangered Species Act and Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule, Florida panthers are currently protected throughout southern Florida’s swamplands, including Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.
The rule acknowledges that the State of Florida’s wildlife habitat is home to a diverse population of panthers and other animals. Also, the Legislature intends to fund research and management to conserve and safeguard these species as a whole because Florida has more vulnerable and endangered species than any other continental state.
National Wildlife Efforts for the Florida Panther
Everglades National Park, under the Endangered Species Act, alongside the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), collaborated with charities and other governmental bodies to establish conservation corridors that will increase the original range of panthers in Florida Everglades. It is anticipated that this measure will boost Florida panther habitat and prevent habitat loss.
The organization also embarked on a project known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which aims at rehabilitating the concolor coryi in Florida Everglades. This strategy aims to manage water resources, prevent floods, and maintain the Florida panther habitat in the Everglades, southern Florida, and southwest Florida habitats. It is believed that this initiative will also help other endangered species, such as birds, alligators, sharks, and other animals.
- Despite being spotted at birth, their spots fade as they mature.
- In 1982, the Florida panther was named the state animal of Florida.
- They are nocturnal predators.
- The Florida panther is one of 32 subspecies of puma concolor.
- Despite being Florida’s state animal, it is one of the most endangered animals on Earth.
- Recently, they have been spotted in North Florida and even Georgia, though females have not been documented outside of South Florida in decades.
- While the panther is large, it is more closely related to small cats — like lynx and housecats — than to other big cats — like lions and tigers.
FAQs Regarding the Florida Panther
- How does the Florida Panther differ from other big cats? Florida panthers differ from other big cats by their coat color. They have darker coats and longer legs, which is a prominent predator feature. The males are often larger than the females in body length.
- Why is the Florida Panther considered an endangered species? Florida panthers are considered endangered species because of their dwindling number in their wildlife habitat. They are perceived as a potential threat and are poached in their natural environment and forested areas by panther bounty hunters. However, conservation efforts are being made by penalizing hunting and restoring their historic range to ensure Florida panthers live properly.
- Where can one typically spot a Florida Panther in the wild? You can spot a Florida Panther in forested areas, wetlands, upland forests, hardwood hammocks, and other dense wildlife corridors. These species thrive in a natural environment free from potential threats.
- How has the range of the Florida Panther changed over the years? The historic range of panthers extends throughout southern Florida and southwest Florida to as far north as South Carolina. The range of Florida panther habitat in south Florida today is limited and conserved to the national park due to extinction.
- How do male and female Panthers differ in size and range? The male panther differs from the female panther in body length by several inches, although they range between 48-108 inches. When measured from the black tips of their nose to their kinked tails, males are 30% larger than females.
- Are there any other subspecies related to the Florida Panther? The Florida panther is classified as a subspecies of puma concolor coryi and is believed to be related to Cougars and Mountain lions.
- How do Florida Panthers interact with other wildlife like deer, raccoons, and alligators? Florida panthers engage in a prey-predator relationship with other species. White-tailed deer are the Florida panthers’ preferred prey, although they also eat larger animals like American alligators as well as smaller ones like wild hogs, raccoons, and birds.
- What can tourists do to ensure they don’t disturb the Florida Panther’s natural habitat during visits? Panthers rarely annoy people and are often secretive; however, they can occasionally turn harmful or dangerous in some cases. Hence, steer clear of places where panthers and their prey are present and do not use extra food to attract these species. We advise you to walk, cycle, and hike with others, as hiking alone could be dangerous if you eventually encounter one in the wild. If you come across a panther from a distance, do not take your eyes off it; remain calm and avoid rapid movements. Also, give the panther plenty of room to retreat, find the nearest exit, and avoid moving in its direction. Also, pets that roam are easy prey for panthers and can draw attention. Ensure you bring animals inside at night when camping. Keep your pet inside a kennel with a closed top if you are going to leave it outside. Never leave pet food or water outside, as this may attract panthers and other animals that are looking for prey.
- Why is it rare to spot female panthers outside of South Florida? Many tourists to Florida have expressed interest in these creatures due to their natural beauty and endangered status. People frequently question where and if these animals may be found in the wild. Unfortunately, it is rare to spot female panthers outside of South Florida because they reside in natural environments with little or no human movement. However, you may find them in the dense vegetation of underdeveloped areas. Thankfully, there are many reserves and protected areas spread out around the state of Florida where one can witness these incredible panthers.