Wide-ranging animals, panthers need vast territories to survive. But the ongoing development of Florida’s natural and agricultural lands continues to shrink what little natural panther habitat remains. To sustain and grow the existing panther population, it’s critical to find places the big cats can call home.
Habitat loss reduces the panther's ability to find prey, mates and suitable resting and denning sites. It also contributes to the two greatest causes of panther death, aggression between panthers and collisions with motor vehicles.
How We’re Helping
In 1989, Defenders of Wildlife saw efforts to create a sanctuary for panthers pay off with the establishment of the 26,400-acre Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2007, Defenders assumed a key role in improving Collier County’s rural lands stewardship program. This program has helped save 50,000 acres of panther habitat by providing economic incentives for preserving native habitat and agricultural lands used by panthers and identifying appropriate areas for development.
In January 2012, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, an action strongly advocated by Defenders. If fully realized, the refuge will protect approximately 150,000 acres in the Kissimmee River Valley south of Orlando—prime habitat for the Florida panther. We also helped secure protection of the passageway across the Caloosahatchee River, a route panthers are using to travel northward.
Where We Are Today
As part of the Florida Panther Protection Program, Defenders is working for land acquisition, conservation easements and restoration of agricultural and wild lands that would expand the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Defenders is also deeply involved in formulating a Habitat Conservation Plan, a legally binding, long-range vision for the permanent protection of the panther and other imperiled species, being developed under the Endangered Species Act for Eastern Collier County.