The Florida Panther
The Florida panther once roamed the southeastern part of the United States. Now, they can only be found in the southern tip of Florida. In 1967, the Florida panther was declared an endangered species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, it is estimated that only 80-100 exist, making them one of the most endangered cats (and mammals) in the world. Below are more interesting facts about the Florida panther.
The Florida panther, also known as cougar, mountain lion, or catamount, is a subspecies of puma. Males are roughly 27 inches in shoulder height, 7 feet in length (nose to the tip of the tail), and 130 pounds in weight. Females are smaller, with an average weight of 80 pounds. The life span of the Florida panther is 10-15 years in the wild.
Mating season for the Florida panther is at its peak during the winter and spring months. Gestation lasts about 90 days and the liter size can range from 1-4 kittens, but rarely do all survive. Kittens have dark spots which fade away as they become adults. The mother cares for them for up to two years. She will not mate again until the young leave.
The Florida panther is shy and most active between dusk to dawn, mainly to avoid daytime heat. Males require about 200 square miles to roam and females need about 75 square miles. They can run up to 35 mph and swim across wide bodies of water. No human has been attacked by a Florida panther.
The Florida panther prefers white-tailed deer but is also known to eat birds, rabbit, armadillo, raccoon, feral hog, small alligators, and nearby pets and small livestock if left out in the open at night. Panthers who mainly eat small animals are not as healthy as those who eat plenty of deer.
Loss of habitat due to human development and vehicle collisions are the biggest threats to these endangered cats. Other threats to the Florida panther include territorial disputes, mercury poisoning from eating prey with high levels of mercury, and diseases, such as feline distemper and feline leukemia.
Saving the Florida Panther
About 1/3 of the Florida panthers wear a radio collar so scientist can monitor and provide care. One interesting fact about increasing the numbers of these endangered species is in 1995, 8 female Texas cougars (very similar to the Florida panther) were bought to Florida to breed with the male Florida panthers. The numbers did increase and, in 2003, the Texas cougars were removed. The kittens that were produced are considered Florida panthers. However, there are concerns that if the numbers increase too much, not enough territory will be available to accommodate all of them because they do require a large range of habitat.