The seldom seen Florida panther is one of Florida’s most iconic species – and one of its most beloved. Here are 9 facts about the Florida panther to impress your friends.
1. Florida loves its panthers.
Besides being the mascot for dozens of schools across Florida, schoolchildren in 1982 picked the Florida panther as the “state animal.” Tens of thousands of Floridians paid a premium for a specialty “Protect the Panther” Florida license plate, whose proceeds pay for panther research.
2. There are only about 200+ of them.
Although its numbers have rebounded from the days when there were only 20, the population of Florida panthers is still just over 200. Even at the best estimates, the Florida panther is one of the rarest and most endangered mammals in the U.S., and is protected under both the Endangered Species Act and Florida law.
3. They need a lot of room.
The Florida panther’s historic territory used to be the entire Southeast U.S., but now they are confined to America’s Everglades and surrounding areas of southwest Florida, where they prefer swamps, pinelands, forests, wetlands, grasslands, and rangeland. Male adults may range from 168 to 277 square miles, overlapping the smaller, 75 to 153 square mile ranges of females.
4. Florida panthers are fast and efficient hunters.
Florida panthers’ method of hunting is to creep up as close to their prey as possible and launch a short spring ambush – at speeds up to 35 mph for a few hundred yards! Deer and wild hogs are their preferred food, but panthers will eat raccoons, rabbits, rodents, opossums, and birds.
5. They avoid humans.
When a human approaches, Florida panthers will be still, hide or try to circle behind. In the rare chance that you do encounter them, try to make yourself large – do not cower – and remain still.
6. They’re bigger – and live longer – than you might think.
Florida panthers can live over 20 years in the wild. Males can measure nearly 7 feet from nose to tail and weigh between 100 to 160 lbs. Females are about 6 feet in length and weigh between 50 to 115 lbs.
7. There is a Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Located 20 miles east of Naples, the mission of the Panther Refuge is to conserve and manage lands and waters primarily for the Florida panther and provide habitat for numerous endangered and threatened species of birds, plants, mammals, and a wide variety of fish, reptiles, and amphibians. Several female panthers have had litters and raised kittens within the refuge in recent years.
8. Humans are the Florida panther’s greatest threat.
Florida panthers are killed by cars and trucks, particularly on State Road 29 and along “Alligator Alley,” I-75. Although illegal, some hunters still shoot panthers occasionally. Most seriously, Florida panthers are threatened by habitat loss.
9. YOU Can Help.
You can help the Florida panther by driving more carefully when in southwest Florida, and by advocating for policies that protect the habitat of this and other species. Learn more about the Florida panther and sign up to join The Everglades Foundation in protecting the ecosystem they rely on.
The Everglades Foundation’s mission is to restore and protect America’s Everglades. Restoration is the only measure that will increase the southerly flow of freshwater needed to stabilize the critical habitats that are home to many threatened, endangered and unusual species.
Want to learn more?
You’re in the right place. For nearly 30 years, The Everglades Foundation has been the premier organization fighting to restore and protect the precious Everglades ecosystem through science, advocacy, and education.
Join the movement to restore and protect the global treasure that is America’s Everglades. Sign up to learn more. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Give a gift of any amount you can to support our mission at EvergladesFoundation.org/Donate.