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Schoolchildren picked the panther as the state animal in 1981.
This large charismatic umbrella species is the mascot for dozens of schools across the state and tens of thousands of residents have paid a premium for a specialty “Protect the Panther” Florida license plate, sold to pay for the state’s panther research.
They have a keen sense of smell and a field of vision of 130 degrees, they have excellent depth perception but lack the panoramic view that deer have.
Protecting panthers in Florida indirectly conserves other threatened and endangered wildlife in the state.
In 2017, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission updated the population estimate to between 120 – 230 panthers still remaining in Florida, making this one of the rarest and endangered mammals in the world.
Even at their best estimates, 230 panthers are not a sustainable population size.
The construction of new houses, roads, and airports in Southwest Florida continue to squeeze the panthers out and fragment their habitat, increasing the likelihood that cats will be hit by cars. This also means that we can directly affect the panther’s future.
It’s sad to say that Florida panthers are killed by cars and trucks, particularly on State Road 29 and Alligator Alley (I-75), and – although it is against the law – hunters also still shoot panthers occasionally.