Florida panther – conservation efforts have succeeded for now

Florida Panther
Florida Panther. Image in public domain.
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The Florida panther can be a thorn in the side of economic growth and a barrier to improving the lives of the people of Florida – discuss. It is bit of an anomaly in that it is the only puma population in the east of the US. Are there too many human settlements which prevent the puma establishing a settled environment? Are there too many pressures from human activity for a successful puma population in Florida going forward? Perhaps conservation will ensure a future for this admired wild cat.

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Update March 1st, 2022: On October 3, 2019 a scientific study was published on the Science Daily website entitled: How the Texas Puma save the Florida panther.

They uncovered the Florida panther genome. They start off in their report by stating that as few as 30 Florida Panthers were inhabiting Florida at their lowest population moment which inevitably results in inbreeding with the attendant health problems: heart failure, undescended testicles, pathogenic diseases and parasites being common among Florida Panthers. They introduced eight female Texas pumas into South Florida with the expectation and hope that the genetic diversity of this tiny population would be improved. They wanted to eliminate or minimise inbreeding depression as it is called.

Five of the mountain lions introduced in the 1990s produced around 20 offspring. There are now upwards of 230 Panthers in Florida many of them descendants of the introduction program. They roam seven Florida, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

This successful project both saved the Florida panther but at the same time removed any possibility of anybody claiming that this was a distinct subspecies. They are now like any other puma in America.

This large wild cat is simply the well-known puma, cougar or mountain lion to quote three names or is it a subspecies? There was a discussion and uncertainty. The naming of this wild cat has been a bit sloppy and it can cause confusion. The quote of Theodore Roosevelt of 1901 is apt:

“No American beast has been the subject of so much loose writing or of such wild fables as the cougar. Even its name is unsettled…..”

This beast has also been persecuted. Other names for this wild cat have been deer tiger and red tiger. The authors of the best-known book on wild cats, Wild Cats of the World (Mel and Fiona Sunquist) call it the puma. Some people call it the eastern Mountain lion. To add perhaps more confusion the puma in Florida is sometimes referred to as the Florida cougar or Florida panther.

Video above: The author – traciaudubon (new window) – says this (I have provided a link to his YouTube channel in thanks):

“A rare daylight sighting of a Florida Panther was captured on video at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida as it took a morning stroll on the sanctuary boardwalk. Panthers, typically shy and nocturnal, are rarely seen and prefer to avoid people. The video was shot on the morning of May 12 at 8:15 a.m. as the panther walked from the pine flatwood across a prairie and into the cypress forest. Corkscrew volunteers Dick Brewer and Phil Nye saw the cat ahead of them on the boardwalk, and Brewer shot the video. The panther continued on the boardwalk for almost a half mile before finally jumping off and disappearing.”

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