Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi)
Description: The Florida panther is a sub-species of puma and is the only breeding population of puma east of the Mississippi River. The panther was one of the first animals to be listed under the Endangered Species Act and is still one of the most endangered mammals in the world.
Image by University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Habitat and Range: This species once roamed across all of the Southeastern portion of the United States, but with increasing human population growth and development patterns, range is now limited to South Florida. With continued human population expansion, habitat suitable for panthers and other wildlife is quickly diminishing. Indeed, officials estimate that only 120-230 adult panthers are left in the wild.
The Florida panther is a habitat generalist that occupies both wetlands and uplands. Panthers prefer areas with sufficient cover and utilize an array of habitat types including cypress forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, hardwood hammocks, saw palmetto woodlands and pine flatwoods.
Photo by Debbie Blanco
Behavior: Florida panthers are wide-ranging, solitary, and territorial animals, unless a pair is mating or a female has young kittens. A female panther’s range is usually between 70 and 200 square miles. Males require up to 250 square miles (the equivalent to 97,000 football fields)! If ranges overlap, male panthers will fight to protect their territory, and the dominant panthers usually secure better territories.
Panthers can travel up to 20 miles a day. If running in short bursts, they may reach speeds up to 35 miles an hour. They are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
Video by Dr. Dan Smith
Life History: Mating season runs from October through March. Females reach maturity between two and three years old and pregnant females have a three-month gestation period. One to four kittens can be born at one time. Once kittens are born, the mother prepares a den in a dry and protected place like a thicket.
At birth, the kittens have spotted fur and are especially vulnerable to predators because they are blind. As the kittens grow, their spotted fur fades, and adult panthers have a tan coat. The mother panther will spend about 2-3 weeks in the den nursing her kittens and only leaves the den to hunt. The kittens stay in the den for about two months before starting to accompany their mother on hunting expeditions. Kittens will stay with their mother for about a year and a half before they leave to form their own territories. Florida panthers live about 12 years in the wild.
Photos by FWC
Diet: Florida panthers are carnivores (meat eaters). They are skilled at hunting white-tailed deer, feral hogs, and other medium-sized mammals and even some reptiles and birds. The panther stalks its prey and then drags its food to a safe place to eat.
Photo by Max Freund