The Comeback Cat

The Florida Panther, which has been on the federal endangered species list since 1967, is making a comeback, thanks to a patchwork of solutions across the state.

The big cats, known as the “Lords of the Forest” to the Cherokee Indians, were once abundant in the Southeast, but due to hunting, habitat loss, inbreeding, and car accidents, numbered fewer than 20 by the 1970s.

As part of strategic efforts to save these majestic beasts, a breeding program was instituted to encourage genetic diversity among the animals.

As well, reduced speed limits were put in place near the Big Cypress National Preserve, a crucial sanctuary for the endangered felines.

State and federal agencies are also working with landowners adjacent to the preserve, to give the animals more space to roam.

The average male panther requires 150 square miles of space, the females, 75 miles.

Lawmakers and conservationists took their efforts even further by creating the Florida Wildlife Corridor; an 18-million-acre network of land, extending across the state’s peninsula. It creates and connects green spaces, easements, and pockets of public and private land between cities.

These sites will be protected from future development, allowing endangered animals, such as the Florida Panther, who now number upwards of 200, to roam freely and thrive.