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15 animals making headlines

By: Laura Moss on April 22, 2011, 12:04 p.m.
Florida panther

Photo: USFWS Southeast/Flickr

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Florida panther

The Florida panther is an endangered subspecies of cougar that lives in the forests and swamps of southern Florida. An estimated 80-100 panthers live in the wild today, thanks to conservation efforts, but the animal still faces threats from habitat encroachment and motor vehicle collisions. The panthers require large amounts of land for mating and hunting, but the animal’s historic range is now down to just 5 percent of its original size. In addition to urban sprawl, increased automobile traffic has proved deadly for panthers despite designated panther speed zones. In 2009 alone motorists caused 17 of the 23 wild panther deaths. Habitat protection has helped the species to rebound and so has genetic mixing. In the 1990s, there were only about 20 adult panthers left in Florida so wildlife biologists brought eight female panthers from Texas — close, but genetically distinct relatives — to Florida in hopes of reproduction. Their efforts paid off, but the Florida panther remains endangered.