Florida panther – conservation efforts have succeeded for now

Its habitat is in the eastern United States, specifically, southern Florida. At one time, it was thought to be a subspecies of the puma and given the scientific name Puma concolor coryi but genetic research in 2000 suggests that this is not a subspecies (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ – Red List). It is not listed as one by the Red List but as a “subpopulation”. The Red List should be the most up to date source. However, it is still regularly referred to as a subspecies by scientists and the matter of whether or not it is a subspecies remains unresolved, it would seem. I will refer to this wild cat as the Florida panther in this article, however.

RELATED: Catastrophe: Florida panther species stricken with ataxia. Deliberate poisoning? – what caused this? It is said to be a new disease called feline leukomyelopathy. It is affecting bobcats too.

Ataxia in Florida Panthers
Ataxia in Florida Panthers
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Human activity and developments encroaching onto the puma habitat over the southern United States together with persecution by bounty hunters, sport hunters or farmers protecting livestock (but failing it seems to take proactive measures) resulted in 95% of the puma population being wiped out leaving just southern Florida. Habitat loss is the most important reason for the loss of this animal today (Liza Gross – PubMed Central). The Red List refers to Mel & Fiona Sunquist – 2002 – in saying that road kills are the main cause of death of the Florida panther. Roads are also a barrier to its natural movement over its range and to a home range. This cat is forced to live amongst people, which is not viable (for the cat). It somewhat reflects the situation in Africa regarding the cheetah, which is forced to live on farmland (see cheetah habitat).

Habitat loss across the board is the major threat to the survival of the wild cats of the world. Humans are the planet’s top predator and their population is growing very quickly and in an unregulated manner with the attendant need for housing and economic growth that seems to be the only viable business model.

With new housing comes roads and roadkill threaten the survival of a cat with such a low and precarious population; 66 road kills since 1972 (up to 2005) – the video above highlights this real threat. The panther being forced to live in a range too small for it ends up fighting with other panthers over territory. For newly independent cats dispersal to find and settle in their own range is dangerous and with limited space even more so. Little firm data exists on the numbers killed at this time of their lives, however. As an example, in Florida two males who were dispersing were killed by a “resident” male (i.e. one who already held the territory).

Source for data below: Liza Gross – PubMed Central
Loss of forest in Florida 1935-19951.8 million acres
Expansion of roads in Florida 1991-200311,000 miles
Loss of green space in Florida450 acres daily

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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