Florida Panther

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Florida Panther

As the deer fed at the marsh's edge, it's tail flickering as it nibbled tender and ripe green growth. Then the nervous animal pauses in it's feeding and lifted its head to listen. Whatever hint of danger the deer had sensed was ignored once the threat could not be located. It stamped a forefoot, lowered its head and began to eat once more, this deer had failed to detect a Florida panther that was downwind (going into the wind) crouched low in the underbrush. Amber eyes however, estimated the distance between himself and the deer. Then at the right moment attacked the deer, with bounds at over twenty feet at a time the panther exploded out of the underbrush pouncing on the deer and forcing it to the ground. Within fifteen seconds that panther stood breathing heavily over his unfortunate victim of life and death. This scene has been going on for many years, the battle of predator and prey, but know the new predators are humans almost virtually wiping out the entire population leaving only an estimated 30 - 50 Florida panthers left.
Should the environmental leaders of Florida protect the Florida panther? The people of Florida think so, and that is why they named it their state animal. This panther is one of about thirty subspecies of Felis concolor. The subspecies, coryi is one of the rarest and most endangered animals in the world. Panthers, also called pumas, cougars, screamers, and mountain lions, once ranged from the southern end of South America into Canada. In appearance the Florida panther is similar to other panthers, however this rare subspecies has several distinct characteristics such as, white flecks on the shoulders, a cowlick on the back (a cowlick is a tuft of hair that cannot easily be flattened) and a crook in the tail. This is formed by the last three bones in the tail, that is bent forming the stump on the end. Panthers have an average length of six to nine feet from the nose to the tip of tail, stand up to twenty-eight inches in height, and weigh from fifty to one hundred-thirty pounds. These panthers are solitary and territorial animals and seldomly live together except for mating season. Following an approximate 90 day gestation period the females are more sedentary once the usual two to three kittens are born, but more than one kitten rarely survives and that is another reason for the low panther count.
Florida panthers live in three main areas, Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve (just North of the Everglades) and the Fakahatchee Strand which is a dense water downed jungle West of the Big Cypress. A cypress is a long, thin stretch of tropical hardwood swaps. In the Everglades National Park Florida panthers are most concentrated in an area called the  Hole in the Donut. Although there are some panthers living in the Everglades the Big Cypress Swap is more to their liking and because of this there are more panthers in the Big Cypress than in the Everglades. Since the majority of the panther population is in the Big Cypress, hunters are upset with some of these efforts such as the ban of all hunting dogs, all-terrain vehicles and airboats in the preserve which are to help aid the survival of the panther. Because unlike the Everglades where hunting of deer and boar is allowed, in the Big Cypress it is not, and the Big Cypress is fully stocked with both of those animals.
Tom Logan who is chief of wildlife research for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission stated that civilization is the main threat to the survival of the panther. The panthers are being wiped out along with their homeland that is being surrounded by new and upcoming developments. Specifically, the highway is the biggest threat to the Florida panther. Nine panthers have been killed in the last eight years. Plans to complete Interstate - 75 by making it a two-lane toll road called Alligator Alley were put on hold because of the community's concern for the panther. Floridians are also looking into building a panther safe tunnel going under busy throughways for the animal to make safe

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