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Living in Panther Country

The Florida panther, Florida's official state animal, has been listed as a federally endangered species since 1967, with an estimated 100-180 adults remaining in the southern part of the state. As the state grows, suitable habitat for panthers and other wildlife shrinks. Florida panthers normally live in remote, undeveloped areas. But as both the number of panthers and the number of people living and recreating in Florida grows, so does the chance of an encounter with a panther.

Panthers at play

What do I do if I see a panther?

Encounters with Florida panthers are rare. If you live, work, or recreate in panther habitat, there are things you can do to enhance your safety and that of your friends, family, and animals.

To avoid a negative interaction with a panther:

  • Keep children within sight and close to you.
  • Give the panther space. Most Florida panthers will avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Do not run. Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
  • Avoid crouching or bending over. Squatting or bending over makes you look smaller, resembling a prey-sized animal.
  • Make yourself appear larger, open your jacket, raise your arms, throw stones, branches, etc. without turning away.
  • If attacked, fight back with whatever is at hand (without turning your back).

Simply seeing a panther in your neighborhood is not necessarily a cause for alarm. However, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists are interested in your sighting of a panther or its tracks. Please send us details of your sighting plus upload any pictures to our Report Florida Panther Sightings webpage.

For more information on how to safely coexist with Florida panthers, please see the brochure, "A guide to living with Florida Panthers."

Are there panthers in my area?

Panthers are a top predator and prey on a variety of wildlife such as deer, wild hogs, coyotes, raccoons, armadillos and rabbits. Unfortunately, they sometimes prey on domesticated animals such as chickens, goats, calves, and even pets. Biologists refer to this as panther depredation.

Because panther depredations do not involve direct contact with people they pose a low risk to people in the area where they occur. The panther depredation database will provide you with information on recent activity in your area.

FWC created maps showing where panther depredations have been reported so you can see if your pets or livestock could be at risk.

How can I keep my pets and livestock safe?

Unlike wild animals, most domesticated animals do not have the skills to protect themselves. There are simple, cost-effective ways to avoid the loss of pets and hobby livestock to natural predators. Keep pets such as cats and dogs indoors or secure them in a covered run. For livestock, the best protection measure is to keep them in fully enclosed barns, pens and sheds from dusk to dawn, the typical time when predators are seeking prey. The FWC and partner agencies have produced tips for creating panther-resistant pens.

There are other things you can do to make your yard less attractive to panthers. Individual circumstances vary, but options to consider include:

  • Electric fence about two feet high around night-time enclosures.
  • Motion-activated lighting (a light that is always on may help you to see what's happening but will not deter a panther.)
  • Clear or mow vegetation that may provide concealment for panthers.
  • Do not feed wildlife because panthers may be attracted to areas where prey animals congregate.
  • Guard animals such as donkeys, have had mixed results in protecting pets and livestock.

What do I do if I experience a panther depredation or other interaction?

If you have an interaction with a panther, including loss of livestock or pets, please call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

It is important to report the incident immediately and preserve evidence so FWC biologists can identify the type of predator involved.

  • Avoid walking around the area and keep other animals away to preserve track evidence.
  • Protect tracks by covering with a bucket (especially if rain is expected), board, etc.
  • Protect the remains of any pets or livestock suspected of being the victim of a panther.