Panthers In Florida: How Many Live In The State And Where Do They Lurk?

The Florida panther is the most endangered cat in North America.

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: May 8, 2023

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Did you know that panthers live in Florida? While most of us haven’t seen one roaming around the sunshine state, it doesn’t mean they are completely gone. Florida panthers are tan North American cougars listed as critically impaired within the NatureServe conservation status system.

While there aren’t many Florida panthers left in the wild, they still lurk in forested areas, you just need to know where to look. Follow along to learn more about Florida’s official state animal, including how many live in the state.

What Are Florida Panthers?

Florida panthers are large cougars within South Florida. These large cats are spotted at birth and are born with blue eyes. The spots, however, fade as they age, until the coat is completely tan. These large cats also have white and black markings throughout their bodies. Florida panthers have black tips on their tails and ears, although the shade varies. Females are generally smaller than males and can weigh anywhere between 64 to 100 pounds. Males, on the other hand, weigh about 100 to 159 pounds. They are long cats and can measure over 7 feet long, but some stop growing at a little over 5 feet.

These wild cats are carnivores, mainly feasting on small mammals. Some of their most common prey include armadillos, hares, feral pigs, and young white-tailed deer. Florida panthers aren’t picky eaters, and while they sometimes attack young alligators, they rarely hunt for mature ones.

Florida Panther walks through high grass.

Florida panthers are native to South Florida and are a distinct



©jo Crebbin/

How Many Florida Panthers Live In The State?

There aren’t many panthers left in Florida. Sadly, experts estimate there may only be less than 200 left in the wild. While this number may seem low, in the 1970s, there were only about 20 panthers left in Florida. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act, meaning it is a crime to harm or capture them. Thankfully, some conservation efforts and programs are striving to protect these beautiful wild cats, like Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

Where Can You Find Florida Panthers?

You can find panthers in Florida in South Florida. They mainly live in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. These wild cats thrive in swamplands. Recorded sightings are rare, but recently, these animals have been recorded in Naples, Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach, Auburndale, and Kissimmee. Although very uncommon, some people have reported seeing these large cougars in Orlando. Sometimes, they wander into neighborhoods and suburbs. This is going to continue becoming common as they lose their natural homes.

It’s even more uncommon to see these animals in zoos since they are so protected. Still, some Florida panthers live in zoos because they can’t safely return to the wild. One of the most well-known panthers in a zoo lived in the Naples Zoo, Uno. This young panther was brought to them after getting shot in the face and hindquarters. They built him a large and comfortable space and behind-the-scenes rehabilitation area. Sadly, Uno passed away in September 2018.

You can also see Mahala, an orphaned kitten in the Miami Zoo’s Florida: Mission Everglades exhibit.

When cougars are born, they have spots, but they lose them as they grow, and by the age of 2 1/2 years, they will completely be gone

Most live in the

Everglades National Park

and Big Cypress National Preserve.


Why Are They Endangered?

Sadly, there are a lot fewer panthers in Florida than there used to be, this is likely because of habitat destruction and overhunting. These mighty cougars were overhunting starting in 1832. This was around the time when many people were settling in south and central Florida. In 1832, a bounty of panthers was created and hunting was encouraged. It didn’t take long for the number of these beautiful animals to dwindle. This wasn’t the only reason they were put on the endangered list.

Habitat loss is still affecting these Florida cougars. Nearly every year, there are reports of Florida panthers found dead along the roadways. These large cats are confined to a small space, compared to their native range. These animals only live in 5% of their original range. When they wander outside of their protected environment, sadly, they find themselves on roadways and cause accidents.

A mountain lion (Florida panther) drinking from a watering hole

There are less than 200 Florida panthers left in the state.

© Bedard

Are Florida Panthers Aggressive To Humans?

Although they are large cats, they are shy creatures. It’s more likely they will run away if you are near them. Still, don’t try to touch or play with a wild panther. They are wild animals and will attack if they feel threatened. Experts state that there are no verified accounts of panthers attacking humans in Florida. They are probably more scared of us than we are of them.

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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