Scientific Name: Puma concolor coryi
Status: Protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act
Quick Fact: In 1989 only 30 to 50 Florida panthers remained in the wild
Learn More: Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Panthernet to find out more about efforts to save Florida panthers
The Florida panther is one of the most endangered large mammals in the world, with wild populations estimated to be less than 130 individuals in a restricted range in southern Florida. Florida panthers are a subspecies of puma also known as mountain lion or cougar. These large cats are extremely agile and can move silently through a forest, climb trees or move down a mountainside with great ease. Their hind limbs are longer than their forelimbs, which is an adaptation for jumping. Their coat color works well as camouflage in many types of habitat. Panthers are known for their strength and have been documented to take prey 2.4 times their own body weight. This is the largest ratio of prey weight to cat weight of all the big cats.
Panthers are basically solitary, coming together only for mating. The females raise their kittens on their own. Gestation is 90 – 95 days. Kittens are weaned at six months. They may stay with their mother for up to twenty months and siblings may stay together for a few months after that.
In partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, White Oak works to rehabilitate injured or orphaned Florida panthers and return them to their homes in South Florida. The panthers at White Oak are kept in large naturalistic enclosures and have very little interaction with people in order to maintain their wildness and natural instincts. Keepers and veterinarians at White Oak monitor the cats remotely through the use of camera traps and radio telemetry collars during their stay to ensure their health and reduce human contact. In 2011 we successfully raised an orphaned male kitten which was returned to the Big Cypress Wildlife Preserve in early 2012.
To learn more about White Oak’s long history with the Florida panther, read this article that was published in the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums Connect in January of 2014.