The Florida panther is tawny brown on the back and pale gray underneath. It is one of 32 Puma concolor subspecies known by many names – puma, cougar, mountain lion, painter, catamount and panther.
© U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Florida panthers once prowled and flourished in woodlands and swamps throughout the Southeast. When European settlers arrived in the 1600s, the clear-cutting, building and other human activities that destroy, degrade and fragment habitat began, and the fear and misconceptions that led to panther persecution took root. Today, the panther is recognized as Florida’s official state animal but it is one the most endangered mammals on Earth.
Did You Know?
Proportionately, panthers have the largest hind legs of any cat, allowing them to leap up to 15 feet vertically and 45 feet horizontally.
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 help keep feral hog numbers in check and deer, raccoon and other prey populations balanced and healthy.
Florida panthers primarily eat white-tailed deer, but they will also hunt feral hog, rabbit, raccoon, armadillo, birds and other animals.
Estimated at 100-160 adults and subadults in south Florida, the only known breeding population.
Habitat & Range
Panthers historically ranged across the southeastern United States including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and parts of Tennessee and South Carolina. Now, the breeding population of Florida panthers is found only in the southern tip of Florida, south of the Caloosahatchee River. In recent years, young male panthers have traveled north into central and northeast Florida, and one even dispersed to west-central Georgia near the Alabama border. Females do not roam as widely and none have been documented outside of south Florida in decades.
Did You Know?
While the Florida panther is large, it is more closely related to small cats — like lynx and housecats — than to other big cats — like lions and tigers.
Panthers are habitat generalists, which means they use a variety of habitat types, including forests, prairies and swamps. They are solitary and territorial animals that travel hundreds of miles within their home ranges. Panthers are mostly active between dusk and dawn, resting during the heat of the day. Males have a home range on average of 200 square miles and females about 75 square miles.
Panthers are usually quiet, but they do communicate through vocalizations that have been described as chirps, peeps, whistles, purrs, moans, screams, growls, and hisses. Females signal their readiness to mate by yowling or caterwauling.
Rarely do all kittens survive. Kittens are born with dark spots that soon fade away as they become adults. They stay with their mother for up to two years.
Mating Season: Throughout the year, with a peak in winter/spring
Gestation: About 90 days
Litter Size: 1-4 kittens