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Florida Panther

Puma concolor coryi
Panther - Profile

Mountain lions, pumas, cougars, catamounts and panthers are names for the same species: Puma concolor. Florida panthers are one of more than 20 subspecies of pumas. Scientists determine subspecies by differences in physical and genetic features. The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) has distinct morphological and genetic differences that scientists can differentiate from other Puma concolor subspecies. Even with the restoration of genetic variability from the Texas cougars in 1995, the Florida panther continues to be distinct from other subspecies of pumas. Because it is distinct from other subspecies and is a small, isolated relic population, the Florida panther is listed as a federal and state endangered species.  

A single wild population in south Florida of 100-160 adult panthers is all that remains of a species that once ranged throughout most of the southeastern United States. (See the Statement on Estimating Panther Population Size for info on how this number was reached.) This remnant breeding population is in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Dade and Monroe counties. A few males have been documented in central Florida, but no females are known to be in that area. The Florida panther was eliminated over much of its historical range by the late 1800's by human persecution and habitat destruction. Because the panther was geographically isolated in south Florida, no natural gene exchange occurred with other puma subspecies. Inbreeding caused a decline in the health and reproduction of the few remaining panthers. By 1995, only 20-30 panthers remained in the wild. That year, eight female Texas cougars were relocated to south Florida to restore genetic variability to the population. All offspring of the Texas cougars are considered to be Florida panthers. The genetic restoration of the Florida panther was successful and the number of panthers tripled in 10 years.

Adult male panthers average between 130 and 160 lbs with an average length of 6-8 feet. Adult female panthers weigh between 70-100 lbs and have an average length of 5-7 feet.

If you see a Florida panther, consider yourself very lucky . These notoriously elusive animals prefer to be as far away from humans as possible. Deer, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, and even the domestic cat are often mistaken for a panther.

It is a common misconception that Florida panthers are black. They are actually tawny and brown with cream or white colored undersides. Small amounts of black coloring can be found around the face, paws, legs, and tip of tail. Baby panthers are born with black spots that last approximately two months after birth. This is so that their mother can camouflage them better from potential predators.   

FP116's kittens D Shindle-FWC - 512x318
Florida panther kittens have blue eyes, and a spotted coat. which helps to camoflage them better from potential predators. 
There is no species of "black panther." The large black cats seen in zoos or used by media outlets are usually either the black (or melanistic) phase of jaguars or leopards. Some species of wild felines, especially those that are spotted as adults (including bobcats) have melanistic or black color phases. This color phase is unusual. However, there has never been a black or melanistic panther, cougar, or mountain lion documented in the wild or in captivity.
The average male panther has a home range of approximately 150 square miles, with 200 square miles not uncommon. Males are territorial and will defend their home range against other males. A male's home range overlaps with female panthers. A female's home range is smaller, approximately 80 square miles, and overlaps with other females. It is not uncommon for a panther to travel 20 miles in a single day.

Intensive radio-instrumentation and monitoring of panthers was initiated in 1981 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Information from tracking radio-collared panthers helped determine preferred habitat, home range size, dispersal behavior, and provided information on birth rates and causes of death. The research also indicated that the panther was suffering health and reproduction problems due to inbreeding. This knowledge led to the genetic restoration project involving Texas panthers. Currently, state and National Park Service biologists are tracking approximately 30 radio-collared panthers for research purposes. For more information about genetic restoration, read the US Fish & Wildlife Service's brochure on Florida Panther and the Genetic Restoration Program.

Panther in water FWC - 511x274
Florida panther wearing a radio collar for tracking and monitoring.

Facts About Florida Panther

There is no species of "black panther."  

A panther's main diet is white-tailed deer.

Kittens have spots on their fur and have blue eyes.

Only 100 - 180 panthers remain in the wild.  

Page Photo Credits — Florida panther - © Larry W. Richardson, Florida panther kittens - David Shindle/FWC, Radio collared panther in water - FWC
Last Updated: Oct 01, 2014
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