The Florida Panthers’ Tale of Triumph & Challenge — The National Wildlife Refuge Association

Florida Panthers are subspecies of Mountain Lion and are known for their elusive nature. They are highly independent and territorial, except when mating or raising kittens. Compared to other subspecies, Florida Panthers have characteristics of a crooked tail, unique patches on their fur, and black markings that highlight the tips of their tails, ears, and snout. They prefer warm climates like swamps, wetlands, and upland forests. In the past, their range extended beyond Florida, and many wild panthers were spotted in the Gulf Coast states, between Florida and Louisiana, and even in Arkansas. However, today, a majority of the remaining wild panthers can be found only in the southwestern tip of Florida, with an estimated population of just over 200 individuals. 

Florida Panthers have struggled to maintain their population since the 1800s, with constant fluctuations for over 200 years. They have been seen as a threat to humans, specifically to livestock, other species, and society. In 1900, there were 500 wild Florida Panthers, but they were extensively hunted and marked with high hunting bounties. Drastically, that population of 500 fell to less than 20 as they were nearly extinct in 1967. In 1973, when roughly 20-30 wild panthers remained, they were one of the first animals listed under the ESA. Although their population has improved since they gained protection under the law, Florida Panthers are still in critical need of support.

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