Florida Panther Conservation

Florida Panther

ZT Saves Florida Panthers
Doctor Lauren Smith examines a Florida panther cub at ZooTampa's animal hospital

Caring for Sick, Injured, & Orphaned Endangered Florida Panthers

For years our team has been working with experts, led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to rehabilitate sick, injured, and orphaned panthers found in the wild. The endangered Florida panther, and other pumas, used to have the largest range of any land mammal in the Americas. Today, fewer than 250 panthers live in the wild, with most isolated in southwestern Florida. Unfortunately, rapid land development has destroyed much of the panther's natural habitat. Many wild panthers are hit and killed by cars as they attempt to travel over busy highways in search of prey and mates. In addition, their geographic isolation and limited breeding pool has led to genetic health problems.

As the number one facility for panther rescue in the state, we have rehabilitated many injured panthers and returned them to the wild. When they cannot be released, due to injury or for their own safety, we have provided a safe place for them to live and be an ambassador for their species.

Recently Rescued Panthers
A pair of panther kittens run and play at ZooTampa

Cypress & Pepper

In 2019, we were asked by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to care for and assist in the evaluation of a pair of panther kittens. The brothers, named Cypress and Pepper, were rescued by FWC after their mother suffered from an unknown neurological disorder that is affecting wild populations of panthers and bobcats.

Since the kittens were hand-raised in human care, they were not candidates for release back into the wild. After 7-months of care here at ZooTampa, the healthy and rambunctious brothers were transferred to their forever home at White Oak Conservation. A 17,000-acre wildlife refuge in Northeast Florida owned by philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter.

Meet Our
Panther Ambassadors

We are the permanent residence for 3 Florida panthers.

Walter the Florida panther at ZooTampa


Walter was found with his left foot caught in a snare in Highlands County. Unable to save the cat’s front paw, FWC and our veterinarians treated the injury and provided oversight to help Walter learn to walk again. Due to his injury, he is unable to be released back into the wild, but he has found a new home at our Zoo. Walter enjoys the Florida sunshine and taking naps on the top platform of the habitat.

Lucy the panther cleans herself by licking her paw at ZooTampa

Calusa (Lucy for short)

Lucy was one of four kittens born to a panther being observed by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists. When Lucy’s mother moved dens, the biologists checked the old den only to find a tiny kitten with a severe head wound. Once they were certain the mother was not coming back, the biologists took the kitten from the den and brought her to us where she received all the critical medical care she needed to recover and thrive. Due to being hand-reared by people, Lucy has no fear of humans and was determined she could present a danger to herself and the public. Watching her reminds us of the power of nature. She also shows us how fragile life in the wild can be. Lucy embodies the hope that her species and ours can find a way to share this world.

Micanopy the Florida panther gazes upward

Micanopy (Mickey for short)

Micanopy was brought to us after being removed twice from residential areas because he was preying upon pets – putting himself, the public and their pets at risk. The Interagency Florida Panther Response Team decided that, due to his pattern of behavior he posed a public safety concern and should be permanently removed from the wild. This meant that if officials could not find the panther a suitable home, it would have to be euthanized. As soon as we heard he could not be released again, we looked at our own capacity and, after weighing the options carefully, we made the decision to provide Mickey a forever home.

Protect the Panther License Plate

When you buy a Protect the Panther license plate you're directly supporting the Florida Panther Research and Management Trust Fund. Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers. Through effective research, the FWC and conservation partners like us monitor several population-related factors that provide important insights regarding the ability of panthers to cope with current threats and future changes.

Learn more at FWC's website

Help Conserve the Florida Panther

Each ONE of us can make a difference in the preservation of the ONE world we share. We encourage you to be a conservation leader in your home, community, and around the world! Small actions you take can make a huge impact on protecting and preserving wildlife and wild places. Consider making a donation to ZooTampa. Your support helps provide crucial support for our animal care, education programs and wildlife conservation efforts.