The Everglades are perhaps best known for their birds and alligators. This extraordinary habitat and climate gives unquestionably more biodiversity than most wetlands. Crocodiles, alligators, wading birds, manatees, snakes, fish and turtles are simply essential for the Everglades and its natural balance. However there is a mammal that is far more uncommon yet intriguing: the Florida panther or also known as puma, cougar or mountain lion.
Carnivore & Apex Predator
Pumas have gained notoriety for being risky. Their high protein diet makes them one of the main top hunters. They only eat meat, which includes raccoons, rabbits, birds, frogs, armadillos, pigs, small alligators and white tailed deer. Since they will kill and eat alligators you could claim they are the top predator in the Everglades. Panthers have very few natural enemies.
The Panther’s Habitat & Range
Florida pumas will support upland forested zones by keeping other animal populations in check. They tend to inhabit the drier forests of the Everglades and while they can swim they avoid the open swamp areas. The dense forests make a more secure and dryer resting and denning ground for them to live. Their prey abounds more in uplands, as opposed to the Everglades’ lower overflowed territories. In any case, their periodic eating of Alligators shows they additionally occupy the lower and more overwhelmed grounds of the Everglades swamps.
A Rare and Endangered Species
The Florida puma’s population is low in numbers. There are an estimated 120 to 130 cats presently living in southern Florida. They are mainly found in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. This makes Florida pumas an uncommon site in the Everglades swamps. You may luck out by taking a Fort Lauderdale airboat tour in the Everglades. While no guarantees and airboat may be a way to observe them in their indigenous habitat. Loss of habitat and territory has caused puma numbers to wane throughout the long term. New protection endeavors on the Everglades and hereditary reclamation programs imply that the species is gradually expanding but very slowly.
The Florida Panther Genetic Restoration
In 1995, The Genetic Restoration Program was created to keep up hereditary wellbeing inside the Florida puma population Too much inbreeding and no new blood was creating sick and weak offsrping. Female pumas from Texas were brought in to South Florida to mix new blood. Inbreeding has fundamentally diminished, prompting an expansion in well being and survival of a healthier species. The outcome has brought back from what were once thought to be 20 to 30 cats to a healthier and more stable population of 130 Florida Panthers.
The Mercury Threat
In 1989, Florida biologist found elevated levels of mercury in some fish in the Everglades. This was because of modern mining and the purifying of metals inside Florida. Those mercury levels were then passed on through the natural way of life through prey such as raccoons. The mercury concentration collected in bigger amounts as it went up the food chain. The mercury would eventually make its way to the apex predator being the Florida panther. High levels of mercury can poison the blood systems and cause birth defects in cats.