At the Zoo: Florida Panther
Our resident Florida panther, “Calusa” (her friends call her “Lucy”), is an amazing example of Florida’s top predator. Extraordinarily beautiful, “Lucy” is sadly one of the few of her kind left in the world. Her steel blue eyes note every movement around her and her ears swivel to catch every sound. Sometimes, she will crouch low in a stalk position and become invisible as she waits for the right moment to silently spring to attack an unsuspecting watermelon given to her. Other times, she is content to hold court on her raised platform, serenely watching Zoo guests.
It is only by the slightest twist of fate that “Lucy” is even alive. Wildlife biologists collar many wild panthers in South Florida to track and monitor their wellbeing. Our veterinary staff helps with these annual panther health checks in the field. “Lucy” was one of 4 kittens born to a collared panther. Biologists tracked “Lucy’s” mother as she moved her family to a new den soon after they were born. The biologists decided to check the old den. They found a tiny kitten with a severe head wound. Once they were certain the mother was not coming back, the biologists took the kitten from the den and brought her to the Zoo where she received all the medical care she needed to recover and thrive.
Raised by people, “Lucy” does not have the skills her mother would have taught her to survive in the wild. She also has no fear of humans and releasing her could present a danger to people and to “Lucy.” Although “Lucy” cannot be released back into the wild, she is an important ambassador for her species, for the millions of people who see her at the Zoo. Watching her reminds us of the power of nature. She also shows us how fragile life in the wild can be. “Lucy” embodies the hope that her species and ours can find a way to share this world.
About: Florida Panther
Dense forests, swamps, and hammocks.
Originally throughout Florida and the Southeast. Now restricted to southwestern Florida near Big Cypress National Preserve.
Weight: 106-148 pounds (males), 65-100 pounds (females).
Length: 6-7 feet from nose to tail tip.
Height: 24-28 inches at shoulder.
About 12 years in the wild.
About 90 days.
Deer, wild hogs, raccoons, armadillos, rabbits, cotton rats, birds, alligators, and carrion.
Fun Facts: Florida Panther
- Panthers have many names; they are also called mountain lions, pumas, and cougars.
- Florida panthers are a unique and endangered subspecies of the cougar (Puma concolor), a species that is found across all of North America.
- Florida panthers cannot roar.
- Florida panthers can leap more than 15 feet away from a crouching position.
Conservation: Florida Panther
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo works with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to provide veterinary support for the wild Florida panther population. Learn how the Florida Panther Conservation Program maintains a healthy zoo-based population, supports field research and habitat protection, and educates guests about the Florida panther.
Currently, there are about 100-180 Florida panthers living in the wild. Their population has increased over the past 20 years because of the introduction of 8 female Texas panthers in the mid-1990s. While the growing population is promising, increased land development has led to more interactions between humans and panthers, including sightings of panthers in backyards and accidents with cars. Increasing protected habitat through wildlife corridors and green passages is particularly helpful in spreading the growing population.
The Zoo has helped raise cubs and rehabilitate adult panthers. For the panthers that are unable to survive in the wild, the organizations create new homes and use the panthers as educational ambassadors that guests like you can get to know.
In 2014, the Zoo opened a new 7,000-square-foot veterinary hospital to provide specialized care for more than 1,300 animals at the Zoo and as a resource for state and federal wildlife professionals. The hospital is a special place that will be used by state and federal wildlife biologists to treat panthers, black bears, and other large animals. Less than one week after the veterinary team began moving into the new hospital, the hospital treated its first patient – a wild Florida panther with shotgun wounds. They named him “Uno.”
How You Can Help
Adopt an Animal!
You can help support expert animal care at the Zoo as well as local and global conservation efforts by purchasing a symbolic animal adoption package.
When you become a member of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo you are supporting conservation year-round.
Be a Conservation Leader!
Each of us can help protect the environment, wildlife, and habitats through choices we make in our daily lives. Even small changes can make big positive impacts on the world around us.
- Be alert while driving – More than 100 panthers have been killed on Florida roads in the last 30 years.
- Slow down – When in panther areas, decrease your car speed and increase the distance between you and other cars.
- Scan the roadsides – You can spot reflective animal eyes.
- Exercise more caution at dawn, dusk, and after dark – Florida panthers are primarily active at night.
- At home, secure garbage, pet food, and vegetable gardens – If you don’t attract panther prey such as deer, raccoons, and wild hogs, you will be less likely to attract panthers.
- In the event of a panther sighting, do not approach the animal – Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at (850) 488-4676 or visit their website.
Learn more at: http://www.floridapanthernet.org