Florida panthers once roamed a range that stretched throughout most of the southeastern United States. By 1995, the population was cut down to 20 to 30.
“The Florida panther was eliminated over much of its historical range by the late 1800’s by human persecution and habitat destruction,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Biologists launched a genetic restoration project, bringing in female Texas cougars in attempt to give the population a chance to thrive. It’s working. Now, there are maybe 160 adult panthers left in southern Florida. It is still considered the most endangered mammal in the Eastern U.S.
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is a safe-haven working to change that.
And, what you see here is an incredible and rare photo, which was just posted on Facebook, of the big cat in the wild. The image was snapped as part of a long term predator-prey density study.
Animal lovers who have seen the photo have been gobsmacked. And, understandably so.
The study, which hasn’t been published, looks at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and is being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens and the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge.