National Wildlife Refuge
|12085 State Road 29 South
Immokalee, FL 34142
Phone Number: 239-657-8001
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|The 26,000 acre Florida Panther Refuge is the heart of panther activity in southwest Florida. Here, management for one of the nations most endangered species is helping its|
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
Florida Panther NWR was established in 1989 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the Florida panther and its habitat. The refuge consists of 26,400 acres and is located within the heart of the Big Cypress Basin in southwest Florida. This subtropical ecosystem covers more than 2,400 square miles of diverse wetland and upland habitat types. The refuge encompasses the northern origin of the Fakahatchie Strand, which is the largest cypress strand in the Big Cypress Swamp. Orchids and other rare plants are found within the refuge.
The refuge contains a diverse mix of pine forests, cypress domes and strands, wet prairies, hardwood hammocks, and lakes. Besides the panther, 24 other species of mammals, birds and reptiles found in and around the refuge are state or federally listed as threatened, endangered or of special concern. The Florida black bear, alligator, wood storks, limpkin, swallow-tailed kite, indigo snake, Everglades mink, and Big Cypress fox squirrel are a few examples. Other resident wildlife include white-tailed deer and feral hogs, which are prey for panthers. Wild turkey and bobwhite quail also can be found on the refuge.
Florida panthers den, hunt and roam throughout the refuge and adjacent lands. The refuge is located within the core of the heaviest, radio-collared panther distribution. The refuge is utilized by 5-11 collared panthers each month.
Getting There . . .
The Florida Panther NWR is located 20 miles east of Naples, FL, on the northwest corner of the intersection of I-75 and State Road 29. The headquarters office for the refuge is at 12085 State Road 29 South, Immokalee, Florida.
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Prescribed burning is the primary management tool used to maintain native plant communities and enhance habitat for white-tailed deer, the panther's main prey. Each year the refuge burns 5,000-7,000 acres in different areas if the refuge. These compartments are burned on a 3-4 year rotational basis.
Invasive non-native plant control is another management treatment used to protect native habitats. Invasive Brazilian pepper, melaleuca, cogon grass, and old world climbing fern plague the refuge. Mechanical removal and chemical control are used to control these nuisance plants.
Research is a major activity on the refuge and most of this work focuses on prescribed fire and its impacts to refuge resources. Other research consists of baseline monitoring of water quality, animal and plant inventories, and development of management techniques to benefit panthers or their habitat. Additional research includes the collection and propagation of native orchids seeds. The goal is to reestablish historic populations of orchids into their native habitats in South Florida. An orchid lab, located on Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, will serve as the clearinghouse for all native orchid reintroductions in South Florida.
Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission capture, radio collar and monitor panthers throughout the Big Cypress Basin, which includes the refuge lands. Refuge staff asist FWC biologists in their work on and around the refuge and radiotrack panthers when needed.