Tracks are the most common sign left by panthers. Panther tracks have some unique characteristics that help clearly distinguish them from other Florida animals such as bears, bobcats, coyotes and dogs.

A panther’s foot pad is shaped like a trapezoid. The top portion of the pad is indented, giving it an “M” shaped impression. However, depending on the ground where the track was made, this may not always be obvious and it may appear flattened. The bottom portion of the pad shows three distinct lobes. This is perhaps the most diagnostic feature of a panther track.

A track left by a front foot of the panther appears round when compared to a rear track, because the front pad is wider. The rear pad is narrower, giving the rear foot track an oval shape.

Figure 1. Comparison of front and rear tracks

Front foot

Wide pad

Front Panther Foot

Back foot

Narrow pad

Back Panther Foot

There are four toes that show on the front and hind tracks. They are teardrop-shaped and offset around the pad (the toes are not parallel with each other). A leading toe corresponds with our middle finger and helps differentiate the left and right foot.  The claws are retractable and in most cases do not show. However, if the panther is running or walking through deep mud, claw marks may be visible (See Figure 2).

Male panthers are larger than females and subsequently have larger feet. The front pad width of a male is more than two inches, while a female’s is less than two inches. At a slow walk, the hind feet are often placed in the tracks of the forefeet. As the pace quickens, the individual tracks will be farther apart (See Figure 3).

Figure 2

Female panther track in mud

Figure 3

Front and rear male panther tracks in firm sand

Panther tracks are most often confused with dog tracks. Unlike panther tracks, the pad of a dog track is triangular shaped, the toes are even or parallel with each other and blunt claw marks are usually present.

When taking a picture of a track for identification purposes, shoot from directly above and include a ruler or some other object to show scale. Bobcat tracks have the same general characteristics as panther tracks but they are smaller. By the time a panther kitten leaves the den at six to eight weeks old, their feet are already bigger than an adult bobcat’s feet.

Dog Track

Dog track in mud

Using a ruler for scale

Female panther track in sand with rule for scale

FWC Facts:
Brown hoplo, a nonnative, armored catfish, is found throughout central and south Florida. They can survive in low-oxygen backwaters and ditches, where they gulp air at the surface.

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