The Florida Panther Refuge


Essential to us all.. 



Habitat is like a neighborhood - a place to live, a space that contains what we need to survive, it is also a community that is shared by other living things. So what are some of the essentials we could expect to find in panther habitat: shelter, food, water, and other panthers.


There are all sorts of different types of Habitats within the United States, and panthers have adapted to many of them.

South West Florida is panther land, not because it is the only place panthers can live, there are other suitable areas where they could survive, but in all the other Eastern regions where panthers once roamed, they were hunted to the brink of extinction. Most of the panthers living in this Southern corner of the State today, are simply the offspring of those who survived the extirpation. According to biologists - panthers prefer the drier upland forests, but have been forced to live in the swamps of South Florida, a result of human encroachment.
Water is an essential element to a panther & its prey, you will find plenty of it in the swamps, not only will it quench the thirst of a panther, it will draw in other animals who also need and wish to use this environment. Some animals make the water their home, panthers have been known to eat alligators, our top predator in the deep swamp.
What else does water give life to – Vegetation. Not only does this vegetation become food for animals like deer, the panthers preferred prey, it also provides cover. Cover is a panthers best friend, panthers are not chasers, running after & wearing down their quarry, they are ambush predators, using stealth and strength to catch their meal.
Prairie & grassland often provide a safer haven for deer, where they can graze & rest reducing the risk of becoming a panthers supper. Do not expect to find a panther crouched in the middle of a grassy meadow waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting deer, nor will a panther be likely to break cover and stalk a herd in the middle of an open field. Panthers will tend to hunt deer on the edges of these environments. A hungry panther will also eat wild hogs, raccoons, armadillo, rabbits, rodents, birds, & even reptiles may end up on the menu.


Cypress domes give shelter & shade, a cool reprieve from the summer heat. Hardwood Hammocks of cabbage palm & live oak are little islands where a panther might rest-up, or eat in peace on drier ground during the wet season, when many other areas are water logged. Pine Flatwoods & Palmetto thickets make good day beds & dening areas for panther mums & their growing kits. Not all habitats are good habitats for panthers, they also utilize citrus groves, ranch land, farms & borderlands where urban areas meet the wilderness.
What do I mean by these areas not being good habitat for panthers? only that they are owned, managed and utilised by humans, and humans are not always appreciative or accepting of fellow predators. When human interests and panther interests run into each other, conflict may arise, this has been the case throughout our history living with these cats, and these conflicts are alive and well in other States today, affecting adversely panther populations in places like the Black Hills of South Dakota and Montana. In fact some very good panther habitat does remain or could be restored on private lands here in Florida.
We want panthers to have a future, to not only survive but to thrive. What Panthers need is Habitat - individuals have large home ranges and require anywhere from 50 to 200 sq miles or more. We have land that we can set aside for panthers, land that we can restore, re connect, & land that we can choose to share with panthers & other wildlife. Sadly, habitat is not the only thing they need, they will also need protection - from us.
We humans have taken over and changed many habitats to suite ourselves, not only in Florida but around the world, we have displaced, used and abused many animals in the process. Can we please stop hating and resenting animals just because they are trying to survive by sharing these spaces with us? After all - we are supposed to be the smart ones, we can improve our understanding of animals and the environment, learn to better our lives, and help those who share our world.


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