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Florida Panther by Max Freund

Today is Endangered Species Day, an annual celebration and opportunity for people to learn about endangered and threatened species and what we can all do to help them!   

The Florida panther symbolizes what is left of natural Florida. This majestic, iconic species was one of the first animals listed under the Endangered Species Act. Today, they remain one of the most endangered mammals in the world and the most endangered cat in North America. 

Photograph of a 'Panther Crossing' sign.

The Problem at Hand

The Florida panther faces multiple threats, each exacerbating the next, and putting the species at risk of extinction. Here’s a breakdown: 

  1. Habitat Encroachment: The expansion of urban and agricultural developments infringes upon the panther’s natural habitat, limiting their ability to roam freely and disrupting vital ecosystems.
  2. Population Constriction: With a small and isolated population, Florida panthers suffer from genetic stagnation, increasing vulnerability to diseases and health issues. Their restricted movement also heightens the risk of fatal collisions with vehicles, which is currently the leading cause of panther mortality.
  3.  Infrastructure Barrier: Existing roads and highways slice through panther territory, acting as formidable barriers to their natural expansion. These man-made obstacles sever vital connections between habitats, further isolating panther populations and hindering genetic diversity. 
Florida Panther stock photo

Landscape-level Habitat Protection

Addressing these challenges demands a combined effort to protect and connect panther habitats on a landscape scale. Here’s how we can get there: 

  1. Land Conservation: Conserving critical panther habitats through strategic land acquisition is paramount. By designating protected areas, we can safeguard essential habitats from the relentless march of development, providing safe havens for panthers to thrive. 
  2. Habitat Connectivity: Establishing corridors that link existing conservation lands is key to enabling panthers to roam freely across their range. By creating interconnected networks of protected areas, we can mitigate the adverse effects of habitat fragmentation and promote genetic exchange among panther populations. 
  3. Wildlife Crossings: Retrofitting existing infrastructure with wildlife crossings offers a lifeline for panthers navigating through human-dominated landscapes. These specially designed structures, such as underpasses and overpasses, allow wildlife to safely traverse roads, reducing the risk of fatal collisions and reconnecting fragmented habitats. 
A Florida Panther walking across a wildlife crossing

In response to the critical conservation needs of the endangered Florida panther, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has implemented a comprehensive Panther Protection Plan. This pioneering initiative aims to safeguard the habitat and well-being of this iconic species amidst ongoing development and public infrastructure needs in the state. 

The Panther Protection Plan is a collaborative effort between FDOT and various stakeholders, designed to mitigate the impacts of transportation projects on panther populations and their habitat. Through a multi-pronged approach, the plan incorporates measures such as wildlife crossings, habitat restoration, and monitoring programs to ensure the long-term survival of the Florida panther.  

View the FDOT Panther Protection Plan HERE.

A group of people pose for a photo in a wildlife crossing underpass

What are WE doing about it?

The Federation has a long history of engaging in panther protection. Through tireless advocacy and on-the-ground initiatives, we continue to play a pivotal role in protecting the panther’s habitat, advocating for stronger regulations, and raising public awareness about the importance of preserving this unique species.

Our goal is to: 

  1. Protect the last remaining habitat in Southwest Florida  
  2. Expanding the current range in Southwest Florida to the panther’s historical range, Southeastern United States  
  3. Reintroduce populations in science-based priority sites across the Southeastern United States 

Conservation efforts are currently focused on moving solutions forward and ensuring panther recovery is a priority at the local, state, and federal levels: 

  • Funding for public and private land conservation  
  • Vetting of proposed development projects with proper public engagement and scientific rigor 
  •  Wildlife crossings on existing and proposed roadways  

How can you help?

Spreading awareness and educating oneself are powerful tools for individuals to contribute to panther conservation efforts. By learning about the challenges facing the Florida panther, such as habitat loss, vehicle collisions, and genetic isolation, individuals can better understand the urgency of conservation actions. Sharing this knowledge with others through social media, community events, or educational programs amplifies the message and encourages collective action. 

Moreover, educating oneself about panther-friendly practices, such as reducing speeds in panther habitat, supporting wildlife corridors, and advocating for protected areas, empowers individuals to make informed choices in their daily lives. 

Click HERE to learn more about the Florida Panther.

Florida Panthers captured on a camera trap

Support Panther Conservation

As stewards of Florida’s rich biodiversity, it falls upon us to champion the cause of panther conservation. You can help support our mission to protect Florida’s beloved panthers. 

Your donation makes a tangible difference in safeguarding the survival of the Florida panther population. Together, we can secure the future of these iconic symbols of our state’s rich natural heritage, ensuring they thrive in Florida’s wilderness for years to come. 

Support panther conservation

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