Photo by Ralph Arwood

Oasis Visitor Center

Florida's Big Cat

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Big Cats—Little Population

Florida’s biggest cat—the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is a subspecies of the cougar.

The Florida panther is the most endangered animal in North America, with a surviving population of about 150 in the wild. Nearly a third of them use Big Cypress National Preserve as their main habitat.

Puma, mountain lion, catamount, and painter are other names for "cousins" of the Florida panther in other parts of the country.

Big Cats Need Big Space

A male panther walks through grasses with a mixed cypress and pine forest in the background. The panther is a tawny brown cat, a little larger than a Labrador retriever, with a broad flat nose and a long back-tipped tail.

A male's territory spans about 200 square miles. As their population density increases, more panthers fight—to the death.

A female and juvenile panther cross the road in front of a white car. A sign nearby says 'Oasis Visitor Center one-half mile.'

Panthers roam and often cross roads. Watch for panthers. More than half of the known Florida panther deaths each year are from being hit by vehicles. (Photo by Peter Matthews)

A panther kitten is light brown with black spots and dark blue eyes.

Females need dense saw palmetto thickets to give birth to litters of 1 to 4 kittens. (Photo by Ralph Arwood)

An adult male panther straddles a cypress branch and peers downward.

Panthers need forests to find their food like deer, feral hogs, alligators, and raccoons, but they don’t typically climb trees. When researchers track panthers with hounds, the panthers often try to escape into trees. (Photo by Ralph Arwood)

An adult female panther and two juveniles sniff and circle a shredded log, with a palmetto thicket in the background.

Panthers travel through wet cypress strands, sawgrass prairies, and hardwood and pineland forests. (Photo by Roy McBride and Rebecca Sensor)

"…The Florida panther is like the polar bear of the South. Because of its low-lying and exposed habitat, the panther is extremely vulnerable to global warming."Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club

A Big Problem

Shrinking Breeding Habitat

Slide through the maps to see how sea level rise will reduce the already limited habitat of the Florida Panther.

Florida panther breeding range today

Current breeding range after 3 ft / 0.9 m of sea level rise

Current breeding range after 12 ft / 0.9 m of sea level rise

Grab and slide the handle above.

Big Hope for the Future

At one point, there were fewer than 30 Florida panthers, but now there are an estimated 150. The National Park Service and other agencies are working to bring these big cats back from the brink of extinction. Take a peek into this panther den, and see some of the kittens that symbolize hope here at Big Cypress.