SCIENTIFIC NAME: Puma concolor coryi
HABITAT: Hardwood, pine and palm forests in northern range; cypress swamp in south
LIFE HISTORY: Solitary and elusive, rarely observed in the wild. About 90 percent of diet comes from feral (i.e. non-native) hogs. At two months, the spot-coated kittens hunt with mother.
THREATS: Habitat loss and fragmentation due to development
FORMER RANGE: Eastern Texas through entire southeast U.S.
CURRENT POPULATION: 30 to 50
Known to the Seminole as coo-wah-cho-bee, or big cat, the Florida panther's powerful hind legs allow it to jump 18 feet in a single bound. A subspecies of mountain lion, this exquisite predator once roamed throughout the southeast, but today, it's confined to a small pocket of southwestern Florida, one of the last stretches of undeveloped land in the eastern United States.
Panthers need large tracts of forested land to hunt deer and shelter their kittens, but from 1936 to 1987, one-third of all forested land in south Florida was cleared for agriculture and human habitation.
Only 30 to 50 Florida panthers remain in the wild, making these big cats one of the world's most endangered species. The Endangered Species Act is a crucial tool in the fight to protect panther habitat.
Photos: Everglades © National Park Service; Florida panther © USFWS; wood stork © Ryan Hagerty, USFWS; red cockaded woodpecker © John and Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS; Cumberland rosemary © Marc Evans, KSNPC