Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, Florida.
  Photo Courtesy of Matthew Paulson
 
Photo of landsacape.

MOUNTAIN LION HABITAT IN FORIDA

Help ensure a future for mountain lions in Florida.

The Florida panther is the only known breeding population of mountain lions in the United States east of the Mississippi River. This tiny population survived early extermination by people due to the highly impenetrable Florida Everglades.

Today, Florida panther numbers have rebounded, but their habitat continues to shrink; resulting in increased roadkill and less space for a smaller population.

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Florida Lion Habitat

Scientific Name: Puma concolor coryi

Note: The Florida panther was originally considered a subspecies of Puma concolor. Due to increased knowledge of the species, as well as advances in genetic research, scientists no longer consider the Florida panther as a unique subspecies though it still maintains the name.


Photo of panther habitat in southeast U.S. from Chris Beldin 2009.

Panther Habitat and Population in Florida

Many government agencies and NGOs assert that there are between 100 to 160 panthers residing in Florida. However, in 2008, a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission on the status of the Florida panther stated that the panther population was estimated to be approximately 100 animals and had remained at this level for several years. It was also implied that a large increase in population size was not expected or feasible because much of the available panther habitat in south Florida was currently occupied at capacity. The officially recognized capacity limits for the panther's designated habitat zones only allow for the accommodation of a maximum of 84 animals.

While the Florida panther once roamed throughout many of the southeastern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina), it was hunted to extinction everywhere except in the remote southwest corner of Florida where it was protected from humans by the impenetrable Everglades swamp.

Today, an area just short of 2,200 square miles is essential habitat for the Florida panther. This habitat has been broken down into three distinct categories: primary, secondary, and dispersal.

Primary Zone

  • 918,000+ acres of natural and disturbed cover types.
  • Supports the only known breeding population.
  • Might support as many as 71 to 84 panthers.
Photo of current panther habitat zones in south Florida.

Secondary Zone

  • 328,000+ acres immediately adjacent to the Primary Zone containing lower quality habitat.
  • Provides temporary habitat or refuge for panthers ranging outside the Primary Zone.
  • If restored, might be able to support 25 to 30 panthers, but current conditions could not support this.

Dispersal Zone

  • 150,000+ acres immediately north of the Caloosahatchee River.
  • Should function as a wildlife corridor to allow panthers to move out of south Florida.
  • Cannot support a permanent population.

Within the Florida panther's remaining habitat, the species appear to prefer hardwood hammocks and pinelands. The saw palmetto plant is used extensively by panthers for resting, stalking prey, and as dens for young panthers.



Click here to open a new window and visit the agency's website...

Florida Wildlife Commission.

Commonly abbreviated as: FWC

Nick Wiley, Executive Director

Main Office:
620 S. Meridian St.
Tallahassee, FL 32303
(850) 488-4676


Panther Team Leader
Darrell Land





Please write to the director and express your concern for lions in Florida.

Thank the agency when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. When they fall short of expectations, politely ask for policy reform and more officer training.
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