- Florida panthers, a subspecies of the North American cougar, and there are less than 200 left in the wild
- A doorbell camera at a home in Naples, Florida captured one of these incredibly rare Florida panthers walking right past someone’s front door
- Read more Mountain Lion stories here
One of my biggest shortcomings as a born-and-raised Floridian is that I’ve never seen a Florida Panther in the wild. They are a subspecies of the North American cougar that’s distinct from the mountain lions most people associate them with and there are less than 200 of them left in the wild.
One of these extremely rare wild panthers showed up on a doorbell camera in Naples and the footage was shared on social media for the world to see. The current range of the Florida panther and the historic range are pretty different but these wild panthers have always called Naples home. Historically, they’d venture all the way wast to Louisiana, north to Arkansas, back east to the edges of South Carolina, and all throughout the areas in between.
These days, wild Florida panthers are located primarily throughout Southwest Florida across an area of five counties (Collier, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, and Monroe). Naples, FL is in Collier County which is also home to the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a wildlife preserve where wild Florida panthers are occasionally spotted. But to see one walking past someone’s front door like this is surreal. It’s a big one too!
Doorbell Camera Captures Florida Panther Walking Past Front Door In Naples
Mark Costa shared this video with me of a panther in Naples. He took the video around 1:30 a.m. when his doorbell camera alerted him of movement. #panthers #Florida #naplesflorida pic.twitter.com/Tuvmc9aWRQ
— Julie Salomone (@JSalomoneTV) March 29, 2022
Even though there are only 120 to 130 Florida panthers left in the wild today it’s still been a somewhat successful recovery. As recently as the 1970s, there were only 20 wild Florida panthers estimated left in the wild.
Unlike many species native to North America whose numbers have been decimated due to hunting, the primary reason for their population loss has been the eradication of their natural habitats. They used to be able to roam freely from The Florida Everglades over to Louisiana and back. The natural wildlife corridors in Florida are making promising strides but their ability to roam freely is still restricted.
With habitat fragmentation, these critically endangered panthers come in contact with cars a LOT more than they ever should. In 2021, 27 Florida panthers were found dead and 21 of those deaths were caused by hits from vehicles (22 total deaths in 2020). That’s over 15% of the total population getting killed by cars every year. Sad stuff. So seeing them in the wild like that video above is special but also concerning that the panther was venturing so close to human developments.
Other sightings of the panthers throughout South Florida
In March of 2021, a wildlife photographer who travels from Miami to The Everglades on the weekends captured a stunning photograph. Seeing a single Florida panther is rare but he saw FOUR at once!
And this footage from the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples is a few years old but this is a video I’ll always remember. Put yourself in this woman’s shoes. Imagine you are just walking along the boardwalk and out of nowhere a huge panther jumps out. Who would be more scared, you or the cat?
Of course, there is always the opportunity to see a Florida panther at many zoos throughout Florida. There’s actually one sitting in a large (caged) habitat about 1.5 miles away from where I’m writing this article at the moment. The Florida panther is the official state animal of Florida and it remains a big point of pride for Floridians that it’s a distinct species from the mountain lion. So if you are ever in the Sunshine State you should make an effort to check one out, whether it’s in a zoo or in South Florida.