Wild Florida, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Collier County, Florida, United States
Photograph by Nick Zantop
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge protects 26,400 acres of habitat in the upper section of the Fakahatchee Strand of the Big Cypress Swamp, twenty miles to the east of Naples, Florida.
The Florida panther is one of the most endangered large mammals in the United States, its population estimated to contain only 80-100 adults. While panthers once roamed through much of the southeastern United States, the panther was eliminated over much of its historical range by the late 1800’s.
Panthers require large habitats that provide protective cover and prey, which includes white-tailed deer, wild hogs and small mammals such as raccoon and armadillo. In South Florida, the panther prefers habitat such as hardwood swamp, oak hammock forests, and upland pine forests such as the one shown in the photo.
On the day of our visit the temperature was in the low 90’s and towering thunderclouds hung in the distance and the hot air was saturated with humidity. With the blazing Florida sun high in the early afternoon sky, we didn’t expect to see much wildlife activity, but shortly before taking this photo we came across a white-tailed deer enjoying the grass growing on the trail.