The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is a critically endangered subspecies of Puma that lives in the low pinelands, palm forests
and swamps of southern Florida in the United States, within a range that includes the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades
National Park, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. This panther, the only Puma representative in the eastern United
States, currently occupies only 5% of its historic range. There are fewer than 70 breeding individuals.
Recovery efforts are currently underway in Florida to conserve the state's remaining population of native panthers. This is a difficult
task, as the panther requires large contiguous areas of habitat -- each breeding unit, consisting of 1 male and 2 to 5 females,
requires about 200 square miles of habitat . A population of 240 panthers would require 8,000 - 12,000 square miles of habitat with
sufficient connectivity to allow dispersal among breeding groups. The Florida Panther may be recognized by its smaller size
(compared to other Puma subspecies), broader skull, and longer legs. This subspecies also often exhibited a crook at the end of the
tail and whorls of fur on the back, likely due to inbreeding as a result of small population size. The introduction of 8 female Texas
puma from a closely related subspecies (P. c. stanleyana) has apparently been successful in mitigating inbreeding problems .
Southern Florida is a fast-developing part of the nation, and declining habitat threatens this species. The two highest causes of
mortality for the Florida Panthers are automobile injuries and aggression between panthers for territory. The primary threats to
panthers include habitat loss, habitat degradation, and habitat fragmentation. The development at Ave Maria, near Naples, is
controversial for its location in prime panther habitat.
The Florida Panther has been at the center of a controversy over the science used to manage the species. There has been strong
disagreement between independent scientists and a prominent panther expert representing development interests about the location
and nature of critical habitat. Recovery agencies appointed a panel of 4 experts, the Florida Panther Scientific Review Team (SRT),
to evaluate the soundness of the body of work used to guide panther recovery. The SRT identified serious problems in panther
literature, including miscitations and misrepresentation of data to support unsound conclusions - in short, bad science (Beier et al.
2003, summarized in recent peer-reviewed articles Beier et al. 2006 and Conroy et al. 2006). A Data Quality Act (DQA) complaint
brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Andrew Eller, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service (USFWS), was successful in demonstrating that agencies continued to use bad science after it had been clearly identified as
such . As a result of the DQA ruling, USFWS admitted errors in the science the agency was using (and subsequently reinstated Eller,
who had been fired by USFWS after filing the DQA complaint). In two white papers, environmental groups contended that habitat
development was permitted that should not have been, and documented the link between bad science and financial conflicts of
interest (Kostyack and Hill 2004, 2005). In January 2006, USFWS released a new Draft Florida Panther Recovery Plan for public
In recent years, the Florida Panther has seen its population triple in size.
Cat Specialist Group (1996). Puma concolor ssp. coryi. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006.
Beier, P, MR Vaughan, MJ Conroy, and H Quigley. 2003, An analysis of scientific literature related to the Florida panther:
Beier, P, MR Vaughan, MJ Conroy, and H Quigley. 2006. Evaluating scientific inferences about the Florida Panther. Journal of
Wildlife Management 70:236-245.
Conroy, MJ, P Beier, H Quigley, and MR Vaughan. 2006. Improving the use of science in conservation: lessons from the Florida
panther. Journal of Wildlife Management 70:1-7.
Kostyack, J and K Hill. 2005. Giving Away the Store.
Kostyack, J and K Hill. 2004. Discrediting a Decade of Panther Science: Implications of the Scientific Review Team Report.
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