Florida Panthers 101
Florida panthers once prowled and flourished in woodlands and swamps throughout the Southeast. But as the region was settled, fear of these solitary, secretive predators led to wanton killing, and development claimed their habitat. Today, the panther is recognized as Florida’s official state animal, but only 100 to 160 of the big cats remain in a single population in south Florida.
Why They’re Important
Panthers are an umbrella species: Protecting them and the vast, unspoiled, wild territory each one needs to survive—an average of 200 square miles for a single male—protects many other plants and animals that live there. At the top of the food chain, these cats also help keep feral hog numbers in check and deer, raccoon and other prey populations balanced and healthy.
In booming south Florida—home to the only remaining breeding population of panthers—housing and highway projects continue to destroy and shrink precious habitat. Collisions with motor vehicles are now a leading cause of panther deaths.
Another impediment to panther recovery is the lack of human tolerance for living with a large predator. Fear that panthers are dangerous to people and livestock complicates efforts to restore panther populations.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Florida Panthers
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading panther advocate in the state of Florida, working closely with federal, state and county agencies, communities, agricultural landowners and other conservation groups.
We are working to protect, restore and expand panther habitat and keep it connected by protecting land and implementing sound land-use and smart growth policies. Defenders also participates in state transportation planning and secures support for a variety of methods to help reduce panther mortalities on roadways. And we have programs in place to help ranchers and people who live near panther habitat accept and coexist with these ecologically important cats.