The Florida panther is an extremely endangered subspecies of the mountain lion (Puma concolor) that is found only in the sawgrass swampland and pine forests in southern Florida.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order – Carnivora
Family – Felidae
Genus - Puma
Species & Subspecies – P. concolor coryi
Common Name – Florida Panther
Florida panthers are similar to the other subspecies in the Puma concolor species complex. They are tan above and creamy white below, with black on the tips of their tail and ears. Their eyes are usually yellow or blue. The young are born with spots, but these fade over time. Among the 32 subspecies of mountain lion, the Florida panther is in the middle range of size, measuring up to seven feet long and weighing up to 160 lbs.
They can be differentiated from other mountain lion types by the crook near the end of their tail, and a unique patch of fur on the back that resembles a sort of cowlick and does not conform to the natural direction of the rest of the animal’s fur. These traits are the result of a lack of diversity in the Florida panther population’s gene pool, and are much more likely to occur in this subspecies due to inbreeding.
Mating season lasts from November to March, and after a year of gestation a female will give birth to 1-3 cubs. The cubs depend on their mother for the first year and a half of their lives. They are born blind, and the spotted coats of newborns helps camouflage the vulnerable babies from predators.
Florida panthers are solitary unless breeding or caring for young. Individual panthers may stake out a wide territory, with a single male claiming an area as large as 250 square miles. They are carnivores and hunt for prey that can include hares, mice, storks, deer, and even alligators.
he Florida panther was long considered to be a subspecies of mountain lion, and many still recognize that distinction. Genetic research has cast the status of the 32 Puma concolor subspecies in doubt, and there is some evidence to suggest that there is only one true subspecies of Puma concolor in North America.
However, these panthers represent an isolated population that exists only in southern Florida, and in fact is now the only example of this animal currently living in the eastern United States. Historically, the P. c. coryi subspecies ranged throughout the southeastern U.S., though the arrival of European settlers into the region began a process that would eventually isolate the creature into its current range.
With the population so small, scientists were concerned with the lack of gene flow affecting the genetic diversity, so in 1995 female mountain lions from the Texas population were introduced to help add more to the gene pool of the Florida panther.
These panthers are critically endangered. Current estimates suggest there may be less than 100 left in the wild. They face threats from many different sources, including habitat loss, mercury pollution, low genetic diversity, vehicular collisions, and diseases such as feline leukemia.