Florida Panther
The Florida panther is an endangered subspecies of cougar (Puma concolor) that lives in forests and swamps of southern Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Its current taxonomic
Taxonomy is the science of identifying and naming species, and arranging them into a classification. The field of taxonomy, sometimes referred to as "biological taxonomy", revolves around the description and use of taxonomic units, known as taxa...

 status (Puma concolor coryi or Puma concolor couguar) is unresolved, but recent genetic research alone does not alter the legal conservation status. This species is also known as the cougar, mountain lion, puma, and catamount but in the Southeast, and particularly Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, it is exclusively known as the panther.

Males can weigh up to 73 kilograms (160 lbs) and live within a range that includes the Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve is a United States National Preserve located in southern Florida, about 45 miles west of Miami. The Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System when they were...

, Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is a national park in the U.S. state of Florida that protects the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and is visited on average by one million people each year. It is the third-largest...

, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in southwestern Florida, twenty miles east of Naples, in the upper segment of the Fakahatchee Strand of the Big Cypress Swamp...

. This population, the only unequivocal cougar representative in the eastern United States, currently occupies only 5% of its historic range. In the 1970s, there were an estimated 20 Florida panthers in the wild, and their numbers have increased to over 160 as of 2011.

In 1982, the Florida panther was chosen as the Florida state animal.


Florida Panthers are spotted at birth and typically have blue eyes. As the panther grows the spots fade and the coat becomes completely tan while the eyes typically become more of a yellow. The panther's underbelly is a creamy white, with black tips on the tail and ears. Florida panthers lack the ability to roar, and instead make many distinct sounds that include whistles, chirps, growls, hisses, and purrs.

Taxonomic status

The Florida panther has long been considered a unique subspecies of cougar, under the trinomial Puma concolor coryii (Felis concolor coryii in older listings), one of thirty-two subspecies once recognized. The Florida panther has been protected from legal hunting since 1958, and in 1967 it was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; it was added to the state's endangered species list in 1973. It continues to be one of the most intensively and expensively protected felines, mostly because there are only about 80-100 left.

A genetic
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 study of cougar mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 finds that many of the supposed subspecies are too similar to be recognized as distinct, suggesting a reclassification of the Florida panther and numerous other subspecies into a single North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar). Following the research, the canonical Mammal Species of the World
Mammal Species of the World
Mammal Species of the World, now in its 3rd edition, is a standard reference work in zoology giving descriptions and bibliographic data for the known species of mammals.An updated Third Edition of Mammal Species of the World was published late in 2005:...

(3rd edition) ceased to recognize the Florida panther as a unique subspecies, collapsing it and others into the North American cougar.

Despite these findings it is still listed as subspecies Puma concolor coryii in research works, including those directly concerned with its conservation. Responding to the research that suggested removing its subspecies status, the Florida Panther Recovery Team notes "the degree to which the scientific community has accepted the results of Culver et al. and the proposed change in taxonomy is not resolved at this time."


The Florida panther's diet is mainly white tailed deer and wild hogs but can also include smaller prey such as mice, birds, rabbits.


The Florida panther only has two current natural predators, alligators and humans (through poaching and wildlife control measures). Besides predation, the biggest threat to their survival is human encroachment. Historical persecution reduced this wide-ranging, large carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 to a small area of south Florida. This created a tiny isolated population that became inbred (revealed by kinked tails, heart and sperm problems).

The two highest causes of mortality for Florida panthers are automobile collisions and territorial aggression between panthers but the primary threats to the population as a whole include habitat loss, habitat degradation, and habitat fragmentation. Southern Florida is a fast-developing area and certain developments such as Ave Maria
Ave Maria, Florida
Ave Maria, Florida, United States is a planned college town currently under development in Collier County, near Immokalee and Naples. It is an unincorporated community, founded in 2005 by a partnership consisting of the Barron Collier Cos., a large diversified private company, and the Ave Maria...

 near Naples
Naples, Florida
Naples is a city in Collier County, Florida, United States. As of July 1, 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population at 21,653. Naples is a principal city of the Naples–Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated total population of 315,839 on July 1, 2007...

, are controversial for their location in prime panther habitat.

Development and the Caloosahatchee River
Caloosahatchee River
The Caloosahatchee River is a river on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida in the United States, approximately long. It drains rural areas on the northern edge of the Everglades northwest of Miami...

 are major barriers to natural population expansion. While young males wander over extremely large areas in search of an available territory, females occupy home ranges close to their mothers. For this reason, cougars/panthers are poor colonizers and expand their range slowly despite occurrences of males far away from the core population.

Conservation status

It was formerly considered Critically Endangered
Critically Endangered
Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. Critically Endangered means that a species' numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations....

 by the IUCN, but it has not been listed since 2008. Recovery efforts are currently underway in Florida to conserve the state's remaining population of native panthers. This is a difficult task, as the panther requires contiguous areas of habitat — each breeding unit, consisting of one male and two to five females, requires about 200 square miles (518 km²) of habitat. A population of 240 panthers would require 8,000 to 12000 square miles (31,079.9 km²) of habitat and sufficient genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

 in order to avoid inbreeding as a result of small population size. The introduction of eight female cougars from a closely related Texas population has apparently been successful in mitigating inbreeding problems. One objective to panther recovery is establishing 2 additional populations within historic range, a goal that has been socio-politically difficult.

Management Controversy

The Florida panther has been at the center of a controversy over the science used to manage the species. There has been very strong disagreement between scientists about the location and nature of critical habitat. This in turn is linked to a dispute over management which involves property developers and environmental organizations. Recovery agencies appointed a panel of four experts, the Florida Panther Scientific Review Team (SRT), to evaluate the soundness of the body of work used to guide panther recovery. The SRT identified serious problems in panther literature, including mis-citations and misrepresentation of data to support unsound conclusions. A Data Quality Act
Data Quality Act
The Data Quality Act passed through the United States Congress in Section 515 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 . Because the Act was a two-sentence rider in a spending bill, it had no name given in the actual legislation...

 (DQA) complaint brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Andrew Eller, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), was successful in demonstrating that agencies continued to use incorrect data after it had been clearly identified as such. As a result of the DQA ruling, USFWS admitted errors in the science the agency was using and subsequently reinstated Eller, who had been fired by USFWS after filing the DQA complaint. In two white papers, environmental groups contended that habitat development was permitted that should not have been, and documented the link between incorrect data and financial conflicts of interest. In January 2006, USFWS released a new Draft Florida Panther Recovery Plan for public review.

The Florida panther in fiction

A Florida panther is one of the main characters of the young adult novel Scat
-Education:* School and College Ability Test* Somerset College of Arts and Technology, a community college in Somerset, England* Shrewsbury College of Arts & Technology, a community college in Shropshire, England-Games:* Thirty-one , a card game...

by Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiaasen
Carl Hiaasen is an American journalist, columnist and novelist.- Early years :Born in 1953 and raised in Plantation, Florida, of Norwegian heritage, Hiaasen was the first of four children and the son of a lawyer, Kermit Odel, and teacher, Patricia...


External links

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