The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. Less than 160 cats remain in the wild. Most live around Okaloacoochee Slough, including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, near Naples. Panther do roam north of this area (one was seen in Georgia) but they haven’t bred or established home ranges north of the Caloosahatchee River. This is a critical obstacle to the panthers’ survival. Panther must extend their range beyond the confines of their current territory to prevent extinction. Otherwise, as Doria Gordon, the Conservancy’s director of conservation, says, “It is not a question of if panther go extinct but when panther go extinct.” The Conservancy is working to protect Florida panther and you can help.
Why is panther habitat expansion so critical?
Their current habitat is simply too small and fragmented for the population to grow to a healthy and sustainable level. Panthers have reached maximum capacity within their home range, and, because they are solitary and territorial, panthers require large areas to hunt, breed and den successfully. Males defend territories of 200 square miles and a single female will establish her home range of 75 square miles within a male’s territory. Envision an area the size of Hillsborough County sustaining only 5 panthers. Miami–Dade County, one of the largest in the state, would provide home to 10 panthers. This may seem daunting at first but the good news is that large, undeveloped stretches of land still remain within the state’s interior and protecting these lands may mean the difference between extinction and survival for the Florida Panther. Donate today to help.
What is being done to help Florida Panther survival?
The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to protect panther habitat by establishing links to connect existing green spaces. We’ve protected thousands of acres of prime panther habitat already within the Greater Everglades and a recent land purchase on the Caloosahatchee River has made the outlook brighter. Protected only hours before foreclosure, this land purchase secures a highly used passage for panther crossing the Caloosahatchee River and looking for new habitat. Without this property, extinction was a near certainty but with this link permanently intact, the Conservancy is determined to build on this foundation, by protecting and restoring key links north of the river up into central Florida.
How can you help Florida Panthers?
Our goal is to ensure permanent protection for 7,300 acres of prime panther habitat, which will link existing green spaces and panther habitat. To do this, we will need to raise $8 million dollars. We plan to leverage that with $21 million dollars of public conservation funding. This will allow us to permanently protect lands that link existing green spaces and create a larger protected home range for panthers to expand and grow.
What Other Threats Do Florida Panthers Face?
Beyond limited habitat, panther are threatened by disease, continued habitat loss, collisions with vehicles and aggression between panthers that fight over limited territory. Any combination of these factors can result in extinction of Florida Panthers.
Fun Facts about Florida Panthers
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May 03, 2013