Tuesday 1 June 2021

What wild cats live in Florida?

Two wild cat species live in Florida: the bobcat and the Florida panther (puma, cougar, mountain lion). At one time the Florida panther was believed to be distinct subspecies of the puma but no longer. Because of the low population size of the Florida panther - in the hundreds and as low as about 100 I recall at one time - pumas from the west of the country were introduced which I understand to be an acceptance by the conservationists that they have abandoned the notion of keeping the Florida panther purebred and are just trying to save the puma from becoming extinct in Florida. It is the last place in the east of the US where it exists. The rest were hunted to extinction long ago when they were considered pests. And now they are treasured but it is too late.

Florida panther killed on the roads that criss-cross the state
Florida panther killed on the roads that criss-cross the state. Tragic but not uncommon. PHOTOGRAPH BY CARLTON WARD, JR.

It is a species of cat which is under constant pressure from human activity such as new roads and new developments. I believe that commercial organisations find the presence of the puma in Florida a nuisance and want rid of the pesky animal. I even suggested a conspiracy to get rid of it at one time.

There is talk from time to time of jaguarundi being present in Florida. There may be some but they are likely to be escaped 'pets' as the experts (IUCN Red List) say there are none.

That's about it. Back in the day there would have been ocelots but no longer. Those days are long gone as the best we can do nowadays is see fossil records of ocelots in this sunny state.

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