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The state animal of Florida is the Florida panther, a subspecies of Puma concolor, which is a species that includes cougars, mountain lions and pumas. In the United States, the Florida panther had a historic range that included much of the southeastern part of the country. Due to hunting, today the Florida panther is only found in the southern tip of Florida. With approximately 100 to 160 Florida panthers left, the state animal of Florida is an endangered species, vulnerable to loss of habitat, collision with cars and feline diseases; in addition, territorial disputes dwindle down the numbers, as does inbreeding due to the animal’s isolated population. The Florida panther has an average lifespan of 10 to 15 years.
The Florida panther is a large, wild cat with tawny-beige fur, a creamy-white belly and chest, and black on the back of the ear, the tip of the tail, and the snout. The male panther measures 6 to 8 feet (about 1.83 m to 2.44 m) long and weighs, on average, 130 pounds (about 58.97 kg) while the female panther measures 5 to 7 feet (about 1.52 m to 2.13 m) long and weighs about 75 pounds (about 34.02 kg). The panther is a carnivore and eats white-tailed deer, feral hogs and raccoons, as well as other medium-sized mammals, birds and reptiles. If the opportunity arises, the panther will eat livestock or pets if they are out at night.
The male panther has greater home range than the female, and defends up to 200 square miles (about 518 square km), which in itself overlaps the several female ranges that are about 80 square miles (about 207 square km). In addition, the female panther’s home range overlaps other female ranges. While the state animal of Florida is now only found in the southern part of the state, male panthers have been known to roam as far as northeast Florida. Where the panther is usually found, it lives in warm habitats such as swamps, upland forests and wetlands.
The state animal of Florida is a solitary and territorial animal and will mark its territory with claw markings and feces. When mating season arrives, the male panther will seek a female mate to breed with. While normal communication of the panther includes growls, hisses and purrs, the female panther will caterwaul or yowl to signal to the male that she is ready to mate. After three months of pregnancy, the female panther will give birth to a typical litter size of two kittens. The kittens are born blind and with dark spots that serve as camouflage; when the kittens grow older, they lose the spots, and when they are about 18-months-old, they are independent enough to leave home.
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