FAQs: Estimating Panther Population Size

Panther.jpg(Updated 01/05/11)

Contact: Diane Hirth, 850-410-5291

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Background: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has developed a "Statement on Estimating Panther Population Size" that addresses the challenges with developing population estimates and describes the methods currently in use by the FWC to provide an estimated lower and upper population bound for Florida panthers.

What is the population estimate for the Florida panther?

Based on the latest information, the FWC estimates there are between 100 and 160 adult panthers in South Florida.

The upper range of this estimate at 160 is higher than any previous number released. Does this represent a recent jump in the panther population?

No. Previously, the FWC has provided an estimate of only the minimum population size and provided no upper number. The range of 100-160 was developed from several different methods that now provide an estimated upper bound for the population.

How did the FWC establish the upper and lower bounds of the Florida panther population?

A combination of methods was used. Annual surveys and the number of live-captured and recovered dead panthers were used to determine the lower bound. To provide the upper bound of the population, the FWC used the highest known panther density in the core survey area and applied it to a wider range.

What geographic area was used to calculate the possible upper bound of panther numbers?

The FWC used the primary zone - South Florida lands essential to survival and long-term viability of Florida panthers as described in a paper published by Kautz et al. (2006). The primary zone is 9,189 square kilometers (3,548 square miles).

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Are there panthers outside the primary zone?

Yes. The primary zone represents the core range for panthers in South Florida. The FWC believes using the primary zone provides reasonable boundaries of a minimum and maximum population that gives insight into the possible magnitude of the adult population size in this part of Florida. However, panthers do travel outside of the primary zone, and male panthers have been documented in Central and North Florida.

Does the population number include kittens?

No. The methods used include only panthers that are more than 1 year old.

What is the density of panthers in the core survey area?

The density is 1.77 panther / 100 square kilometers (1.77 panthers / 39 square miles, or 4.54 panthers / 100 square miles).

Do biologists believe that panther density is constant across the primary zone?

No. There is considerable variation in habitat type and quality within the primary zone. Biologists do not believe that all habitats throughout the primary zone support panthers at such a high density. Nevertheless it provides an upper bound for discussion purposes.

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FWC Facts:
Owls swallow small prey whole because they have no teeth. After 12 hours they cough up the feathers, bones and fur in a football-shaped pellet.

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