By Paige Johnson, Age 9, and Esayah Edghill Age 10

FLICKR / Everglades NPS

Florida panthers are one of the most endangered species on Earth and live in South Florida. They live in hardwood forests and swamps. Florida panthers are born with spots and blue eyes. As they grow, the spots fade and the eyes turn yellowish. The fur on most of their body is tawny (a speckled light brown), while their bellies are off-white like pale champagne.

Once believed to be dangerous, and immensely feared by European settlers, the Florida panther was widely hunted. In recent decades, it Florida panthers has have earned admiration and respect, becoming Florida’s official state animal in 1982. Their diet consists of white-tailed deer, feral hogs, rabbits, raccoons, armadillo, birds and other animals. Only 120-230 panthers are estimated to be left in the wild.

Did you know…

  • Florida panthers cannot roar, but they are one of the largest purring cats. They communicate through “vocalizations,” which are sounds including whistles and chirps.
  • Males weigh approximately 159 pounds, while females weigh about 100 pounds. They grow to be a little over seven feet long.
  • At two months old, kittens begin hunting with their mothers. After two years, kittens go out on their own. However, it is rare for all kittens to survive.
  • They can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet.
  • Like all mountain lions, the Florida panther has a black mustache-shaped marking around their muzzles.