Florida Panthers Boxed In

Before widespread development by humans, panthers in Florida were abundant. By the late 1980s, there were only about 20-30 left. These poor animals were inbred, and genetic health problems such as kinked tails, heart conditions, and undescended testicles ensued.

An untested emergency measure was undertaken to save them from extinction. In 1995, eight female cougars were transported from Texas, and deposited in Florida panther territory. Scientists did not know how the Texas cougars would adapt from their home desert environment to Florida with its rain and swamplands. They also didn’t know if they would mate with the Florida panthers on the verge of extinction.

Very fortunately, five of those females became pregnant and gave birth to cross-bred kittens. The other three didn’t make it. One was killed on a highway, another was shot and killed, and the third died giving birth. The kittens born from the five survivors have reproduced and contributed to somewhat of a revival of the species, although with genes from another subspecies. The intermingling has produced good results, with the Florida panther population now up to 100 – 110. These panthers no longer show the same genetic problems.

A sustainable population is believed to be about 500-1,000, meaning a population that could survive without human intervention. However, so much of Florida’s land has been developed, there isn’t much panther habitat remaining. There is so little their current population is at the maximum that can be supported by the limited space. So though the number of panthers and their health has improved, there is the problem of a lack of wild habitat for them.

Scientists continue monitoring the population with radio collars, and by analyzing remains to determine causes of death. The panthers are still in danger from car accidents, poaching, disease, and lack of habitat. Eventually, the same problem of interbreeding will take place simply because the population size is still too small. So cats from other regions might have to be introduced again. Additionally, the legislative system will need to create designated new conservation habitats for them.

Image Credit: Stephen B Calvert Clariosophic

Related Links:

Five Percent of Florida Panthers Killed in Three Days
Care2 Florida Panther Petition

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.

79 comments

PAM S.
PAM S.4 years ago

Typical for humans to destroy animals and their homes. What happens when they are all gone?? Pretty sad. We need to take care of them...

Victoria L.
Victoria L.4 years ago

Aww these poor panthers...

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 years ago

Nice info on the Florida panther.

Beth M.
Beth M.4 years ago

Florida needs to limit the encroachment of the non-native species, "human". We do not need to lose another animal species because of human selfishness.

Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams4 years ago

So sad....but that video is beautiful...those blue eyes....i love florida panthers.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga4 years ago

i pray that these animals will get better

Chris Monahan
Chris Monahan5 years ago

Good numbers up a little. A long way to go and not much space (hope?) left for them.

David N.
David N.5 years ago

Thanks for the article and video. Great news to hear the seem to be succeding in bring the Florida Panther back/

Lisa Neste
Lisa AWAY Neste5 years ago

I am from Fla. & was a member of the "Fla. Panther Society".
These beautiful cats have always been a concern of mine. It sounds as if they have made very good strides in saving them from extinction. My concern still being the encroachment on their territory, like so many of our wild species!!!

Frederick G.
Frederick G.5 years ago

They need lots of land; also they need to reproduce healthily, with other cat families