Hear this right... Here!
EXIT 10A I-95 northbound; to 125 Street. Hialeah, FL
While the Florida Panthers play hockey up north just west of Fort Lauderdale, their home rink runs up against real panther country. Compared to a bunch of toothless be-muscled hockey jocks, the big cat is no less fierce.
The real cat, the Florida Panther is a species of mountain lion that inhabits the swamps and Everglades just a few miles west of I-95. Even with six million neighbors the lurking panther is seldom seen. The National Park Service writes: "Once common throughout the southeastern United States, fewer than 100 Florida panthers are estimated to live in the wilds today. Florida panthers were heavily hunted after 1832 when a bounty on panthers was created. Perceived as a threat to humans and livestock the species was nearly extinct by the mid-1950s. Today, the primary threats to the remaining panther population are habitat loss and degradation."
Big kitties indeed, males can weigh up to 160 pounds and live within a range that includes the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. This population is currently the only cougar representative in the eastern United States — although some sightings have been recorded in New England of late. In fact, just 25 miles from New York City in suburban Connecticut, a mountain lion was hit and killed by a car along the Merritt Parkway a few years back. Being so elusive, their range and population are not entirely known.
Whether or not it can be said of the Hockey Team, the 100 big cats now represent something of a comeback story. In the 1970s, there were estimated to be only 20 Florida panthers in the wild. An enthusiastic conservation campaign raised awareness. Poaching plummeted. Amateur sightings increased. Rangers used collars to track the animals.
Most significantly, motorists were put on notice — especially drivers crossing the Tamiami Trail between Miami and Naples — to avoid hitting the big cats. That’s because the primary killer of panthers was getting hit by speeding highway vehicles. In 1982, the big cat was even chosen as the official Florida State Animal. Finally, folks were assured that living in panther country was quite safe.
Unfortunately, they are known to take an occasional Fido or Puss but about 90 percent of their diet is feral hog, white-tailed deer, raccoon, and armadillo. Occasionally they consume rabbits, rats, and birds, and occasionally even alligators.
No wonder the Hockey Team chose the panther to be their team emblem. Any animal that eats alligators is one tough competitor.
#FloridaPanthers #Floridapanthers #Gators #Everglades Park #NationalParkServiceandNationalHockeyLeague #NHL #Extinction #Mountainlions #cougars