1. FLORIDA LOVES ITS PANTHERS. In 1982 students in Florida chose the panther as the “state animal.” Tens of thousands of Floridians have paid 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 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. Male adults may range from 168 to 277 square miles, overlapping the smaller, 75 to 153 square mile ranges of females.
4. THEY 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.
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.
Follow us on social media or contact Nikkie Dvorchak, Director of Development & Events, Southwest Florida at ndvorchak@EvergladesFoundation.org or (239) 206-1685