Less Than 100 Florida
Although we call them Florida panthers, these
shy cats once roamed throughout the entire Southeast from east
Texas to the Atlantic and north to parts of Tennessee. Over
hunting, loss of habitat, and reduction of their primary prey
reduced their population to a remnant living on the southern tip
of Florida. They prefer upland habitat but will use diverse
habitats. They mainly prey on deer and hogs.
Weight at Birth: 4-8 ounces
Adult Shoulder Height: 2-3 feet
Adult Body Length: 5-8 feet
Diet: local wildlife, squirrels, deer
Life Span: 8-15 years in the wild, 10-20 years in captivity
Habitat: Southwestern Florida, average 100 square miles
Population: Approximately 100 in the wild
Q. What is a Florida panther?
The Florida panther is the larger of two wild cats in Florida
(the smaller is the bobcat). The scientific name for the Florida
panther is Puma concolor coryi. The Florida panther is a
subspecies of puma, also known as mountain lion, cougar, or
Q. What cat is a Florida panther’s closest relative?
All puma subspecies (including the Florida panther) are most
closely related to the cheetah and jaguarundi (a weasel-like cat
found in Central and South America) based on genetic analysis.
Q. Are other subspecies of puma endangered like the Florida
Only the Florida panther and Eastern cougar subspecies are
considered critically endangered, although the Eastern cougar is
highly suspected to be extinct. The other subspecies of puma are
categorized as “near threatened.”
Q. What does a Florida panther look like?
The Florida panther is always a tan color. The tawny color is
richer on the back and lighter on the belly. The adult Florida
panther has amber-colored eyes and a long, black-tipped tail.
Male Florida panthers tend to be larger than females. The
average length (nose to tip of tail) of a male is 7 feet. The
average length of a female is 6 feet. An average male Florida
panther weighs 120 pounds, while an average female weighs 75
pounds. Florida panthers are usually a little taller than 2 feet
high at the shoulder.
Q. How can I distinguish a Florida panther from a
The two major differences between the Florida panther and the
bobcat is size and tail length. The Florida bobcat is much
smaller than the Florida panther; in fact, the bobcat is not
much larger than a domestic cat. The name “bobcat” reflects this
cat’s short tail. The tail of a bobcat is only 5-6 inches long.
Furthermore, the tip of the bobcat’s tail is black on top and
white underneath. The rest of the bobcat’s fur can range in
color from gray to brown to reddish-tan. The bobcat is very
closely related to the lynx.
Q. How many Florida panthers are left?
About 100 cats remain in the Florida panther population. As
recently as the early 1990’s, only about 30 Florida panthers
existed. Although the population has recovered somewhat, the
Florida panther is still critically endangered.
Q. Where do Florida panthers live?
Historically, this subspecies roamed the entire southeastern
United States, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi,
Arkansas, and Louisiana. Currently, the only remaining
population is in southwest Florida.
Q. What kind of habitat does the Florida panther live
The Florida panther will use a variety of habitats, from marsh
to hardwood hammocks. The panther prefers dry forest but will
cross watery areas if necessary. One of the most important
habitat types to the Florida panther is slash pine with saw
palmetto understory. Florida panthers use the dense saw palmetto
thickets as stalking cover while trying to sneak up on prey and
as hidden dens to raise young kittens.
Q. How much space does a Florida panther need?
A male Florida panther requires about 200 square miles for a
home range (territory). A female panther requires less space,
about 75 square miles for a home range. A male Florida panther
needs the home ranges of several females within his own home
range; however, a male panther does not typically allow overlap
of his home range with that of another male. Furthermore, male
panthers disperse farther from their natal range (their mother’s
home range) than female panthers will. This behavior is thought
to decrease the likelihood of inbreeding.
Q. Where can I see a Florida panther?
Most people will never see a Florida panther, as they are quiet
and elusive. Panthers do not usually walk around in broad
daylight or boldly travel through developed areas. Only a very
lucky person will glimpse a Florida panther in the Florida
Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve,
or Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Unfortunately, one
place people do see Florida panthers is on a highway cutting
through a minimally developed area (such as land north or south
of Alligator Alley) after being hit by a car. Panthers attempt
to cross roads in search of a home range.
Q. What does the Florida panther eat?
The main prey of the Florida panther is white-tailed deer and
feral hogs. They will also eat armadillos, raccoons, birds, or
Q. When are Florida panthers most active?
Florida panthers do most of their traveling and hunting at dawn
and dusk. This activity pattern is termed crepuscular. Panthers
rest during the heat of the day.
Q. Do Florida panthers kill humans?
No human has ever even been attacked by a Florida panther.
Humans do not fit the appearance of prey that a panther looks
for. Florida panthers tend to have a natural fear of people and
do not show themselves.
Q. Are Florida panthers a threat to pets or livestock?
In rural areas, sometimes Florida panthers will kill a domestic
pet or livestock for food, especially with human development
pushing into remaining Florida panther habitat. As with most
predators, if a Florida panther comes across easily accessible
pets or livestock, the panther will not pass on the easy meal.
Pet and livestock owners, especially in less-densely populated
areas, should secure pets indoors and livestock in
predator-proof pens at night.
Q. What sounds does a Florida panther make?
Besides purring, Florida panthers can mew, chirp, whistle, hiss,
growl, and emit a distinct scream know as the caterwaul.
Q. Do Florida panthers live in groups or families?
Florida panthers are typically solitary, like most cat species.
Only lions live in groups called prides. Florida panthers come
together solely for mating purposes. The only time one would see
a group of panthers is when a mother panther is raising her
Q. How long do Florida panthers live?
The average lifespan for a Florida panther in the wild is 12
Q. When does a Florida panther reach maturity?
A male Florida panther is sexually mature at 3 years of age,
while a female is sexually mature at 18 months.
Q. When is the Florida panther mating season?
Breeding behavior peaks between December and March. Most Florida
panther litters are produced between March and June, although
litters have been recorded year-round.
Q. How many kittens are born in a litter?
After a gestation period of 92-96 days, an average of 2-3
kittens are born in a litter.
Q. What do Florida panther kittens look like?
Florida panther kittens are born with spotted coats and bright
blue eyes, which are initially closed. The spotted coat gives
the vulnerable kittens good camouflage among fallen leaf litter.
Kittens weight about 1 pound at birth. The spots and eye color
fade by the time the kitten is 6 months old.
Q. What research is currently underway to monitor Florida
Scientists monitor Florida panthers with radio collars and
automatically-triggered cameras. The radio collars allow
scientists to track a panther’s movements and alert scientists
to a potentially injured, dead, or denning panther with a change
in beeping frequency at the receiver. Automatically-triggered
cameras take pictures of panthers (and other wildlife) that walk
past the camera, which is typically mounted on a tree. The
pictures show visual characteristics for identifying panthers
and can also reveal a panther’s health condition. The Florida
Panther Capture Team goes into the field in order to initially
radio collar, re-radio collar, measure, and do veterinary
work-ups on the panthers.
Q. How many Florida panthers wear radio collars?
Approximately one-third of the Florida panther population wears
Q. What are common causes of death of the Florida
The causes of death are related to an increasing human
population near or in Florida panther habitat. With decreasing
available space, young male panthers are having a more difficult
time finding an empty home range. When two male panthers meet,
they often fight (intraspecific aggression) until one is killed.
The number of Florida panthers killed by cars on highways is
increasing, with 14 cats killed by cars in 2007. Florida
panthers may also have low immune systems due to low genetic
variability and succumb to diseases, such as bacterial
infections, rabies, pseudorabies, or feline leukemia. Congenital
heart defects can also contribute to a panther’s death.
Reprinted with permission from
Friends of the Florida Panther website.