Florida Panther Facts

Protect the Florida Panther

or Lose Her Forever

What is the Species?

Puma concolor coryi. The Florida Panther is a subspecies of cougar that has
adapted to the subtropical environment of Florida.

How Many Panthers Are Left?

Only 80 to 100 panthers still remain in Florida, making this one of the most rare and endangered mammals in the world.

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Where is their Habitat?

Florida Panthers are usually found in pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and mixed swamp forests. Adult males may range over an area of 200 square miles, while females range over a 70 to 80 square mile area. Florida panthers are very solitary animals. An adult maintains a home range to live, hunt and, if female, raise its young alone. A male panther’s home range is very large and averages 275 square miles and overlaps with the smaller home ranges of females. Panthers maintain boundaries by marking with scents. They rarely fight over territory.

General:

Panthers are most active at dusk and dawn, they can travel 15-20 miles a day, often moving in a zig-zag pattern, though they tend to rest during the daytime, travel & hunt during the cooler hours of the night. Panthers can swim and will cross wide bodies of water. They have a keen sense of smell and a field of vision of 130 degrees, they have excellent depth perception but lack the panoramic view that deer have.

They can run up to 35 mph but only for a few hundred yards, their preferred method of hunting is to creep up as close to their prey as possible and launch a short spring attack. Panthers do become used to man-made noises and frequently cross roads. They are attracted to woodland fires, and may stay near burned sites for days as deer and other prey are drawn to new vegetation. When humans approach an area they will either be still, disappear, or attempt to circle behind. Panthers can live up to between 12-15 years in the wild. A male can measure 7-8 feet from the nose to tail tip and weight 100-160 lbs. Females are about 6 feet in length and weight between 60-100 lbs.

 

What About Their Breeding Habits?

The Life Cycle

 

What Kind of Hunter is the Panther?

Efficient is the word. Adult male panthers weigh up to 150 pounds and can measure almost 7 feet long from the nose to the tip of the tail. Females are smaller, rarely weighing more than 100 pounds. Panthers are built to hunt live prey. Deer and wild hogs

 

are their preferred food, but, when these are not available, panthers will eat raccoons, armadillos and even alligators. Interestingly, panthers eating a diet of small animals are not as healthy as those with plenty of deer to hunt. While they are good sprinters, panthers rarely chase prey for long distances. Instead, prey is singled out, stalked and ambushed.

 

What are the Threats?

Humans:

We are. This also means that we can directly affect the panther’s future. It’s sad to say that Florida panthers are killed by cars and trucks, particularly on State Road 29 and Alligator Alley (I-75), and – although it is against the law – hunters also still shoot panthers occasionally.

Health :

The biggest threats to the remaining panthers, however, are their health and continuing loss of habitat. Florida panthers have an unusually large number of health problems. Most are related to poor habitat conditions and genetic defects.

Around the Everglades, panthers have been contaminated with mercury (at least 1 has died from mercury poisoning) by eating raccoons high in mercury, which passes through the aquatic food chain. The mercury’s origin is being debated and is uncertain.

 

What is being done?

Plans to save the panthers focus on 3 areas of action. First, additional habitat must be secured and enhanced. Second, programs are under way to breed panthers in captivity for later release back in the wild. Third, scientists are exploring ways to increase the genetic variability of panthers through cross-breeding with closely related subspecies.

The panther needs large wilderness areas for its survival. Federally listed as endangered since 1967, the Florida panther is down to 80 to 100 individuals. These few animals are threatened by further habitat loss, collisions with cars, the ill effects of inbreeding, and high levels of mercury in their prey.

May of the remaining panthers live in or near Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. The National Park Service is cooperating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Florida Department of Natural Resources, and other organizations to try to bring about recovery of the Florida panther. Efforts are centered on research, captive breeding, and public education. Radio-collaring of several panthers has shown what areas and habitat types they use. Other studies have identified the principal prey — white-tailed deer. Publicity has made the public more aware of the panther’s plight and alerted people to watch out for them on the highway. But with the numbers so low and suitable habitat in south Florida so restricted, captive breeding and reestablishment in other areas will be crucial for turning the population decline around.

Are There Any Refuges?

The National Wildlife Refuge System Act of 1966 includes measures to preserve ecosystems for endangered species, perpetuate migratory bird species, preserve natural diversity, and create public appreciation for wildlife protection.

The refuge system is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior. The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is one of the 58 refuges established under the authority of the Endangered Species Act. The refuge area has long been known as an important Florida Panther habitat. Several female panthers have had litters and raised kittens on the refuge in recent years.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission monitors panther activity using radio telemetry collars. They fly three times a week to aerially locate each radio-collared panther. These techniques provide vital information to scientists. The swamps and pinelands panthers occupy also provide us with clean air and water, as well as thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and plants.

 

Refuge Location

The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge lies 20 miles east of Naples, Florida.  Interstate 75 parallels the south boundary; State Road 29 parallels the east boundary.

 

Mission of the Panther Refuge

To conserve and manage lands and waters in concert with other agency efforts within the Big Cypress Watershed, primarily for the Florida Panther, other endangered and threatened species, natural diversity,
and cultural resources for the benefit of the American people.

Additional Research:

In 1989, data collected from 29 radio-collared panthers indicated that the population was losing genetic diversity at a rate of three to seven percent yearly. Researchers believed that the gene pool would continue to erode even if the population stabilized, leading to extinction within 40 years. Three years later, with the health of the population continuing to decline, biologists made a controversial decision. In an effort to increase genetic diversity, wildlife managers introduced several female Texas cougars — the closest remaining cougar population that had historically shared Florida panther range — into the Florida panther population in 1995. Several hybrid litters have since been produced, and the introduction seems to have corrected some of the problems experts generally attribute to inbreeding. Experts are still debating the role of the Texas cougars in panther recovery.

Despite the success of this effort, panthers are still at great risk of extinction. Conserving the panther will require aggressive protections for remaining wild lands in south Florida as well as conservation efforts on private lands.

Another major conservation challenge for the panther is reestablishing the species in other portions of its historic range. Field studies have indicated an adequate prey base and appropriate habitat in some areas of northern Florida. While there is widespread popular support for panther reintroduction in Florida, some people are still concerned about introducing the cat to new areas, fearing the panther will bring with it restrictions on private property uses, potential damage to livestock and pets, and a possible threat to human safety. Such concerns often surround recovery efforts for large carnivores, but with proper assurances to address depredation claims and any potential “problem” animals, reintroduction projects could prove a positive step towards recovering the Florida panther.

 

What You Can Do To Save The Panther

  1. Become informed by researching materials from creditable sources which take a scientific approach.
  2. Regularly express your support for the Florida panther by writing political figures and agency administrators.
  3. Help others become educated about the nature and habits of the panther and its value as an important part in the balance of nature.
  4. Support wilderness land acquisition, and the public and private land management practices which emphasize biodiversity and balance.
  5. Don’t be silent, join in and support the environmental education process to raise the consciousness of the community. You can do this by individual effort and/or by joining with others in various ways to get the job done.
  6. Do a school project on the Florida Panther
  7. Make wildlife a family affair. Display panther bumper stickers. Visit national and state parks where the panther lives. Watch TV programs about endangered species.
  8. Attend public meetings on panther issues. The decisions that affect endangered species are made in these forums. Make sure your voice is heard.
  9. Speak out every chance you get. Awareness is half the battle. Tell everyone you can about the plight of the panther.

As with most conservation issues, the struggle of the panther goes beyond the question of whether it is worth saving this particular species. If our wilderness can’t support panthers, then many other less visible species also will perish. Let’s all do what we can to ensure that future generations will know this beautiful animal and the wilderness it symbolizes.

Note: Much of the information and research on this site is courtesy of both the Florida Panther Net (http://www.panther.state.fl.us/) and The Panther Society. Our deep felt thanks goes to them for their tireless efforts to ensure the panther’s survival by educating us all.

Florida Panther News

Florida Panther

Protecting the Florida Panther is vital to saving Florida's precious eco system. These are the most recent news stories about Florida Panthers and their fight for survival.

"florida panther"

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The Florida Panther:
An Umbrella Species

Florida Panther Umbrella SpeciesAn umbrella species is a species that, through its protection, protects other species that live within its habitat.

The Florida Panther Refuge provides habitat for a total of 126 bird species, 46 species of reptiles and amphibians, 22 species of mammals and a large variety of fish.

Closed areas in the refuge protect habitat for 24 species of endangered, threatened or plant & animal species of special concern status.

YOU CAN HELP

Save the Florida Panther from Extinction

• Don’t be an “Island of Knowledge”
Teach others what you have learned and correct myths about the Florida Panther that are repeated all too often. Visit and learn from websites such as www.floridapanther.org, www.fws.gov/floridapanther/ , bigcatrescue.org

• Slow down when you’re driving
Over 10% of the dwindling Florida Panther population was killed in 2009 by vehicle strikes. Watch out for all wildlife. Know what to do if you encounter a panther in the wild; i.e. make yourself appear larger, avoid crouching or bending over, do not run, give the panther an easy way to escape.

 

 

Historic News About the Florida Panther

Small Population Only One Danger Facing Panthers

By WILL ROTHSCHILD Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Published: Mar 26, 2006

OCHOPEE – The future of the Florida panther is playing out here on Loop Road, a 26-mile route carved through the middle of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Considered the most endangered mammal on the planet when it numbered perhaps two dozen a decade ago, the panther has rebounded to about 80.

The number of people living in South Florida also has climbed dramatically in the past 10 years. With more people moving into subdivisions chiseled into the scrubby pinelands and hardwood hammocks that once buffered panthers from urban life, a growing chorus of observers say Florida has reached its limit of cats.

Sustaining the recovery, in fact, promises to be much trickier, hinging as much on social and political considerations as scientific ones. How those questions are answered could determine whether panthers hang on or whether South Florida decides it no longer has the room or the will to protect them.

The number of panthers killed on roadways this year has equaled the total from all of 2005.

Perhaps a more telling indicator of the trouble facing the panther is the increasing pressure to remove a particular cat from the wild this year.

Panthers are known for their stealth, but this cat, known as No. 124, has been anything but for more than two years. She has been seen dozens of times prowling along Loop Road homesites in the Big Cypress hamlet of Ochopee.

Leaders of the Miccosukee Indians who live there worry she will attack pets or livestock or, though a panther attack on a person has never been reported, one of the children who play along Loop Road and the fringes of wild Big Cypress.

As the debate continues, about 124 and how to handle panther-human interaction – not to mention whether the Florida panther’s DNA has become so corrupted by a cross-breeding program that it might not even be the Florida panther anymore – some scientists think the risk of extinction is as great today as ever.

Larry Richardson, a federal biologist who has studied the cats for 20 years, is among them.

“It’s always dangerous when you make strides because people can get apathetic and think everything is OK,” Richardson says. “But I’m more concerned today than I was [10 years ago].

“I see a crash coming.”

 

Shrinking Habitat And Inbreeding

Florida panthers once enjoyed their perch atop the food chain across a vast dominion. They roamed the entire Southeast, from the Carolina mountains to the Louisiana marshes. They were all over the Florida peninsula, from the Panhandle to the Everglades.

Then they were hunted and their habitat was paved over and fractured until the cats were hemmed into the relatively tiny pocket of South Florida, a mere 5 percent of their original range.

The tight quarters meant major problems for the panther. By the mid-1990s, it had become so inbred that its male offspring were being born without testicles.

The panther is a subspecies of the cougars found in abundance across the Western United States. Scientists transplanted eight Texas cougars into the panther population in a last-ditch effort to solve the genetic problems and save the animal. It worked: the panther’s numbers have roughly quadrupled since then.

Also, after more than 20 years of capturing, collaring and tracking panthers, about 70 percent of what has been identified as the cat’s primary habitat zone has been protected.

“We have to tackle the remaining 30 percent to maintain continuity,” said Darrell Land, the panther team leader with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “I’m cautiously optimistic. We certainly see more panthers today, so I’m optimistic that preservation methods have worked.”

 

The Case Of No. 124

As the fiercely territorial panther’s population grows and young males continue to seek ranges outside protected public lands, the cats increasingly are running headfirst into the region’s ravenous growth and development machine.

The removal of 124 would be the second this year of a cat roaming near people in Big Cypress. In February, panther 79, an 11-year-old male nicknamed Don Juan, because he had fathered about 30 kittens, was removed from Big Cypress and shipped to a nature center outside Jacksonville after repeatedly killing livestock in the Pinecrest area.

Perhaps no case better illustrates the complexity of panther management and the uncertainty of the cat’s future than that of 124.

One of an estimated 14 to 17 reproducing females left, 124 has birthed litters each of the past two years, making her “one of the most significant panthers out there,” according to Laura Hartt, a panther expert with the National Wildlife Federation. It is rare for female panthers to give birth two years in a row.

Some suspect Loop Road residents and people who work at the environmental education center have been feeding deer in the area, which has attracted them and which, in turn, has attracted 124.

At a meeting in Naples this month, a team of scientists reaffirmed its position that 124 has not displayed the type of behavior that mandates removal.

Meanwhile, the Miccosukkee tribe continues to petition federal officials to take her out, warning the panther could be shot if she displays threatening behavior.

 

Still A Panther?

Then there’s the DNA question.

Biologists say the animals maintain certain characteristics that are purely Florida panther, such as facial structure.

But the DNA question is clearly an issue that makes panther advocates uncomfortable, raising the specter that the Florida panther is gone and the cross-bred cats that remain in South Florida don’t qualify for protection.

Ultimately, the underlying issue is the same: the Florida panther is in trouble. Where people differ is on why and what should happen next.

Meanwhile, back on Loop Road, alligators and wood storks hang out in roadside canals framed by a tangle of bald cypress, orchid-adorned slash pine and palm trees. On a mild mid-March afternoon, it can be hard to imagine there is something wrong if you’re just passing through.

It can be hard for the people who live here, too. Though Stacey Cypress, 18, lives on Loop Road, she had not heard about her tribe’s fight to remove 124 until a visitor told her about it last week.

Despite the rampant fear and anxiety sweeping the area detailed in tribal letters to wildlife officials, no one has told this new mother and caretaker of three younger siblings that a renegade panther was about.

Her 8-week-old daughter on her lap, Cypress sat on her front porch and nodded toward the lush wilderness.

“We’re living in their habitat,” Cypress says. “They’re endangered, right?

“So why move them out of here? What’s the point of that?”

 

Panthers on the Prowl: Florida’s big cats rebound

Last update: 22 May 2004

But remain at mercy of politics, science and growth

By DINAH VOYLES PULVER Environment Writer

This is the first of a two-part series on the plight of Florida’s efforts to rescue its panthers from the ill effects of encroaching humankind. Part two will appear in Monday’s editions.

They’re elusive and sightings are rare, but nearly three times as many Florida panthers now roam the wilds of South Florida than 20 years ago.

Efforts to bring the panther back from the brink of extinction produced dramatic success. Breeding and genetic restoration projects were accomplished. Vast tracts of habitat were saved. From an estimated 30 panthers, officials say the population now numbers at least 87, not including kittens.

The birth rate has outpaced the number of panthers that die in auto collisions, but biologists say territorial fights are a bigger and just as lethal threat.

Savvy and smart, panthers are efficient at prowling their territories for prey and water. But that prowess can’t always help when they’re attacked by disease, other panthers or even mosquitoes. It leaves them powerless in the face of the sprawling growth that threatens their habitat and competes for vacant land. The Florida panther is still endangered.

And, during the past year, simmering squabbles over panther protection have bubbled into very public debate among scientists, the state and federal agencies they work for, environmental groups and developers.

The crux of the dispute is over panther habitat — chiefly, how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluates panther habitat and recommends what developers should do to make up for damage.

The wildlife service oversees panther protection and recovery in Florida. The service works with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which also oversees panther protection and monitors the panther population. Both agencies work on restoration projects and conduct and support scientific research.

The federal agency’s panther plans put priority on preserving forested land, saying it’s the cat’s favored habitat. Others say different types of habitat, such as grassland and farmland, are just as important and that faulty science has prevented the federal agency from adopting that principle in permitting.

A federal complaint filed May 3 is the latest in a series of disputes and allegations.

Andrew Eller, a biologist with the federal wildlife service for 17 years, alleges in the complaint that his employer knowingly uses flawed science, which creates poor permitting decisions that allow crucial panther habitat to be destroyed.

A scientific panel, commissioned by the wildlife service, drew similar conclusions in December after reviewing research used by the state and federal agencies to set policy. The panel issued a report, scathing in some sections, saying the service should immediately stop using its modeling method that puts priority on forested habitat.

The panel of four experts from outside Florida also recommended the appointment of an independent scientific steering committee and a re-analysis of existing data. It chided the agencies for allowing panther research to lag.

The wildlife service also is embroiled in at least two lawsuits raising similar concerns brought against it by the National Wildlife Federation and the Florida Panther Society.

PANTHER PROGRESS

Officials at the state and federal level have been taken aback by the fervor of their critics.

“We are the catalyst that has helped to understand how to protect the panther and its habitat,” said Jay Slack, field supervisor for the federal wildlife service in Vero Beach. “We are really serious about protecting the Florida panther. It’s the right thing to do and we are bringing all of our knowledge and resources to bear on doing just that.”

Both the state and federal agencies point to the huge volume of information collected, hundreds of thousands of protected acres and wildlife underpasses built under South Florida highways.

“If you look at where cats are today compared to where they were 20 years ago, it’s been an incredible effort with significant results to further the conservation of the species,” said Thomas Eason, bureau chief of the state wildlife commission’s bureau of wildlife diversity and conservation.

“It’s been at great effort and cost to a lot of people,” Eason said, including all the Floridians who bought the 1.4 million panther license plates sold since 1993. “We’ve thrown a lot of money and resources at it and I think it’s paid off for the panther.”

The commission has monitored 132 panthers during the past 23 years, officials said.

Darrell Land, panther coordinator for the wildlife commission, has worked in the panther program for 20 years.

“I feel pretty good about it but we shouldn’t dust off our hands and act like the job is done,” he said. “We’ve still got a long way to go before having a population we don’t have to manage.”

The cats “will always be in danger but we’re at a point where we can keep panthers here into the foreseeable future,” Land said.

The Florida panther, a genetically distinct part of the puma family, was placed on the federal Endangered Species List in 1967 because of its dramatically declining numbers. Cats that once roamed the entire Eastern seaboard were confined to a shrinking population in the lower half of Florida.

In 1979, the state wildlife commission began capturing panthers and putting radio collars on them to track their movements. They learned where the panthers were, where they traveled and how they interacted with each other and their environment.

When the panthers still ranged throughout the Southeast, experts say they periodically crossbred with Texas pumas. When that ended, the genetic variation that sustains a healthy population gradually gave way to genetic problems that come with inbreeding.

In 1995, the state and federal governments began a genetic restoration project. Eight Texas females were released in South Florida and produced 17 kittens. The last of those females were removed last fall and retired to a private wildlife conservation center.

Genetic intervention will have to continue as long as there are fewer than 100 panthers, because the cats won’t be able to find mates they’re not related to, Land said. But the next phase won’t start until more studies are completed on the long-term results of the last effort.

The panthers, meanwhile, have problems all on their own, even without human impacts.

NATURE TAKES ITS TOLL

In 2002, 30 kittens were born from radio-collared females.

“That was really an amazing year,” said Layne Hamilton, manager of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. But, fewer than half that year’s kittens survived.

“It’s a hard life. Sometimes the mothers aren’t real experienced at raising kittens,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of things coming at the population that are challenging us in trying to manage it and allow it to grow.”

Biologists think two of the 2002 kittens may have died from anemia from mosquito bites. Hamilton said one biologist working that summer said the mosquitoes were so thick he could hardly breathe.

Predators, road kills and feline leukemia are among the other dangers, but biologists say the biggest cause of death is territorial aggression. Hamilton said most male panthers don’t live past 18 months because they’re killed by other males, Hamilton said.

Last August biologists released two panther siblings, a male and a female, orphaned about a year earlier when an uncollared male killed their mother. Three months later, the young male was killed, apparently by the male that killed his mother. Meanwhile, the female may be pregnant by that same male.

“It’s kind of a soap opera out there,” Hamilton said. “It’s survival of the fittest.”

DEVELOPME NT VS. PANTHERS

The lack of agreement among experts about precisely what makes up ideal habitat creates confusion and conflict among developers, their consultants, environmental groups and the agencies involved in panther protection.

Generally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for permitting development projects. If the Corps decides the project may impact an endangered species, the Fish and Wildlife Service is called in.

The service, for example, consults on projects that may affect panthers within a designated priority area in Southwest Florida that includes Big Cypress Swamp, the Everglades and several preservation areas.

The permitting guidelines say the agencies are to use the best available science to evaluate direct and indirect impacts and minimize impacts where possible.

Environmental groups argue that 13,000 acres of habitat have been destroyed by development in South Florida. But the wildlife service says not all of the permitted development destroys habitat. The habitat may be disturbed and then later used again by panthers.

They say of 11,263 acres of development permitted since January 2002, 6,496 acres have been permanently preserved or improved by developers through such projects as removing exotic species and restoring native landscapes.

Since 2000, the wildlife service has been working on new guidelines to “ensure the survival and recovery of the panther.” A new panther habitat conservation plan and a landscape conservation plan to help guide property owners, agencies and permitters are expected to be released later this year, said Bert Byers, spokesman for the wildlife service’s Vero Beach regional office. The habitat plan also will include a new priority area map that will increase the area within which permit applications require federal review.

The wildlife service also is working on a revised recovery plan. The plans, required for all endangered species, spell out how the service hopes to bring the animals back to the point they can be removed from the endangered list.

The current recovery panther plan, developed in conjunction with the state and other interested parties, was last revised in 1995. Initially the service said the new plan would be ready this fall, but now reports it probably won’t be ready until 2005.

It frustrates environmental groups that the federal government moves so slowly, said Karen Hill, vice president of the Florida Panther Society.

“They keep saying they’re going to do something but we have yet to see anything,” Hill said. “The new conservation strategy for panther habitat has been dragging for years.”

The environmental groups’ lawsuit mentions that delay, stating the federal government has failed to produce “a meaningful plan” to guide development and uses bad science to issue permits.

“Developers are rapidly mining, bulldozing, clearing and paving the natural landscapes needed for the panther to survive,” the suit states.

In one suit, the environmental group wants to stop the federal permit for a 3,212-acre limerock-mining pit in Fort Myers. The groups say the buffers and other trade-offs proposed for the Florida Rock mine will not make up for the isolation of panther territories and the damage to more than 5,000 acres.

“If this rate of habitat loss keeps up over the next five to 10 years, the panthers would be facing extinction,” said the panther society’s Hill.

Both lawsuits were filed in the District Court in Washington, D.C.

In the other suit, the groups allege the service has failed to protect the panther by ignoring the concerns of its own biologists and other scientists and by putting too much emphasis on protecting forested lands and not enough on other kinds of habitat that panthers also use.

John Kostyack, attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, said the wildlife groups don’t disagree with “every aspect of federal policy.”

“We praise them for the acquisitions and the wildlife crossing,” Kostyack said. “And the restoration was a big success.”

However, Kostyack said the results of the recent reviews mean “we’re going to have to change the way they develop in South Florida.”

The success of the genetic restoration program could serve as a model for a similar effort to preserve habitat, said Hill.

“The panthers were facing genetic crisis and all the agencies and conservation groups came together and did what needed to be done to save the panthers,” she said. “That’s what needs to happen again.”

dinah.pulver@news-jrnl.com http://www.news-journalonline.com/ NewsJournalOnline/ News/Enviro/03FloridaE NV01052304.htm

 

Panther/cougar program appears to be working April 2004

FT. MYERS, FL (AP) — Wildlife experts say the program that put eight Texas cougars into the wilds of Florida to help the endangered Florida panther to survive is working.

Biologists say five of the eight animals released in south Florida died in the wild. (killed by hunters) The others were recaptured and removed last year, after apparently doing their jobs. (and the remaining three cats were accidently sent by the state to a canned hunt operation in TX)

If NOT for those cats, state biologists say the Florida panther would be nearly extinct today. Before 1995, the population was estimated between 30 and 50 animals. The latest estimate is between 80 and 100.

Wildlife officials released the eight female Texas cougars in Big Cypress, Everglades National Park and Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. Experts say the new cats are still genuine Florida panthers, since the two subspecies likely mated when their ranges overlapped more than 100 years ago.

Caracal Facts

Caracal Facts

Caracal

Common Name: Caracal
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Caracal)
Species: caracal

Misc: The name Caracal is derived from a Turkish word “karakulak” meaning “black ear.” The Caracal was once trained for bird hunting in Iran and India. They were put into arenas containing a flock of pigeons, and wagers were made as to how many the cat would take down. This is the origination of the expression “to put a cat amongst the pigeons.” The Caracal is capable of leaping into the air and knocking down 10-12 birds at one time!

Size and Appearance: Often referred to as the desert lynx, the Caracal does not actually possess the same physical attributes of members of the lynx family, such as the characteristic ruff of hair around the face. Instead, it has a short, dense coat, usually a uniform tawny-brown to brick-red, and black (melanistic) individuals have been recorded. As the name implies, the backs of the ears are black and topped with long black tufts about 1.75 inches long. This tuft is the characteristic that Caracals do share with the members of the lynx family. It is the largest member of Africa’s small cats, and it’s most formidable. Males can weigh as much as 40 pounds, and females as much as 35. They stand between 16-20 inches at the shoulder, and are 35-39 inches long.

Habitat: Caracals live in the drier savannah and woodland regions of sub-Saharan Africa, and prefer the more scrubby, arid habitats. They will also inhabit evergreen and montane forests, but are not found in tropical rain forests.

Distribution: Central Africa, South Africa, west Africa, southwest Asia, Middle East.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 78-81 days, females produce a litter of 1-4 kittens, with 2 being the average. They begin to open their eyes on their first day of life, but it takes 6-10 days for them to completely open. They are weaned at 10 weeks, and will remain with their mothers for up to a year. They attain sexual maturity between 12-16 months. In captivity, Caracals have lived up to 19 years.

Social System and Communication: Caracals are solitary animals, and social interactions are limited to periods of mating, except for mothers with kittens. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

Hunting and Diet: Caracals prey on a variety of mammals, with the most common being rodents, hares, hyraxes, and small antelope. Unlike the other small African cats, Caracals will not hesitate to kill prey larger then themselves, such as adult springbok or young Kudu. Caracals have also been reported on occasion (although this is an exception rather than a rule) to store their kills in trees, as do the leopards. These cats are mostly nocturnal, but have been spotted in daylight in protected areas.

Principal Threats: Caracals are mostly killed for livestock predation, although this only occurs in a few of its ranges it still adds up to large numbers of deaths (2219 animals in one area alone). In other areas of its range, it fights hunting for its skin and for its meat, which some bush tribes consider to be a luxury.

Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.

Felid TAG 2003 recommendation: Caracals (Caracal caracal). Caracals are managed with the assistance of an international studbook. Most recent importations are from Namibia. Ultimately, a pure subspecies can be maintained in North America. Although the TAG originally targeted the Asian race from Turkmenistan for the RCP, it became apparent that only highly inbred hybrids were present in North America. More likely, no aspect of this race is in this region, or likely to become available. The population target for the PMP is 80 individuals.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 169 in zoos worldwide, with 52 being in the U.S.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book

Meet the Caracals of Big Cat Rescue:

Caracals of BCR

http://bigcatrescue.org/catbio/

See Caracals Living Free

Cheetah Facts

Cheetah Facts

The Cheetah

Kingdom: Animal
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivore
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Acinonychinae
Genus: Acinonyx
species:Jubatus

The word “Cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word “Chita” meaning “spotted one”. The Cheetah is the fastest land animal reaching speeds of 45 – 70 mph. Cheetahs have also been known to swim, although they do not like to. The Cheetah is not one of the Great Cats, because it does not have a floating Hyoid bone in its neck it can not roar, therefore it is a Lesser Cat. Cheetahs have been considered through out history to be a sleek and beautiful cat.

Cheetahs have been in captivity for over 5,000 years and were first tamed by the Sumarians. By far the Cheetah has been considered the easiest of the exotic cats to tame. The Cheetahs were used as hunting partners for sport in Asia prior to Assyrian Dynasty in Libya, during the reign of the Kings. Their keen eyesight played a major role, which aided in the hunt.

Cheetahs have also been pets to many people dating back to such historical figures as Gengis Khan and Akbar the Great of India and Mogul Emperor. Akbar (1555-1600 AD) had a collection of an estimated 6,000 Cheetah, which only produced one litter each year. 25% of Cheetah in captivity will breed more than once. This along with several other studies has proven the Cheetah does not breed well in captivity.

Sub-species

The Asiatic Cheetah-Acinonyx venaticus, was hunted to near extinction by the European and Asian royalty. Their beautiful pelt was a symbol of wealth and was worn proudly. Although the pelt was not coveted as that of the Leopard, these cats were almost completely destroyed. Today only an estimated 50 of this sub-species exist in small isolated groups scattered throughout Eastern Iran.

The King Cheetah was once considered it own species, however now it has been proven to be nothing more than a genetic mutation. King Cheetah originated from Central Africa, where they were used for hunting. These Cheetah were part of a breeding program to acquire genetic mutations, such as fur patterns, size, and rare and unusual color forms, with no regard to the genetic integrity of the species. This African Cheetah can only be found naturally in Zimbabwe and South Africa Transvaal Province providing that both of the parents carry the recessive gene.

Appearance

The Cheetah is a tall and elegant cat in appearance. Large chest, narrow waist, long thin legs, and a slim well muscled build this animal was definitely made for speed. The Cheetahs coat varies from a tawny to golden tone covered in a pattern of solid black spots averaging .75″-1.5″ in diameter. The Cheetahs beautiful pelt became more protected in 1970, when the fur trade regulations were strengthened. The fur is coarse to the touch not silky as it appears. The Cheetahs long thick tail has spots, which turn into rings and at the end is tipped with white. The throat and abdomen are a creamy white in color. The Cheetah has a small head with high set eyes and short rounded ears tipped with white on the back. The most well known characteristic is however the distinct black “tear mark”, which runs from the inside corner of the eye down to the corner of the mouth.

CheetahCub.jpg (128300 bytes)Cubs are born with a mantle of fur running from the back of the neck down to the rump. This clever disguise aids in camouflaging the kittens in the high grass while they are following their mother. This mane like feature begins to disappear at the age of 3 months, but still remains visible at 2 years of age. The fur color of a newborn cub is medium gray, which gradually evolves into the adult colors by the age of 4 months.

The King Cheetah has a fur pattern mutation, which turned the small rounded spots into large connected black patches. This mutation is caused from a lack of genetic diversity.

Size

The Cheetah weighs an average of 83-145 lbs., making them about the same weight as that of a leopard. The length of a Cheetah is approximately 70″-86″ from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Being an extremely tall cat the Cheetah stands at an average of 32″ tall.

Newborn cubs weigh an average of 5.25-10.5 oz. The body length of a cub is approximately 11.8″, which may vary.

Habitat

The Cheetah prefers to live in open grasslands, savannas, dense vegetation, and sometimes even mountainous terrain. The open land of grasslands and semi-desert better accommodates the Cheetahs way of hunting, which is running as opposed to the stalk and pounce method. Namibia is home to the largest population of Cheetah at about 2,500 cats. Due to the continuous growth of farmland and expanding development 95% of the Namibian Cheetah live on cultivated farmland.

Distribution

The Cheetah was once widely distributed throughout Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Asia Minor, and even East of India. Fossils were recorded to be found from China, Northern India, Southern Europe, and as far as the Western United States. Sadly now the species is burning out and can be found sparsely scattered amongst Namibia, Kenya, Asia, as well as a handful of other small countries.

Reproduction

The Cheetah above all else is the most reproductive cat. Why then is it so endangered? The answer is two-fold. Cheetah cubs often fall prey to Lions, Jackals, Birds of Prey, and Hyenas, as the mother must leave them behind while hunting for food. Even if the mother was near, she could not fend off an animal as large as a Lion or Hyena, the Cheetah was built for running not fighting. 90% of Cheetahs born die with in the first 3 months, 50% of which are destroyed by predators. The other 40% fall victim to lack of genetic diversity. This is the second reason for their inability to survive. This genetic peril is responsible for weak and underdeveloped immune systems. Disease and illness attack a weak immune system, which in turn causes death. Most cubs do not even make it past 1 month old when this is the case.

After a gestation period of 90-95 days a female Cheetah will give birth to a litter of 3-5 cubs. The largest litter recorded in captivity was 8. The male Cheetah does not participate in the rearing of the cubs. The mother may leave the cubs for as long as 48 hours in order to hunt for enough food to sustain her in a lactating state. If the food supply is too scarce the mother may abandon the cubs, so as to maintain her way of life. Also if the litter is lost with in the first few weeks the female will come into estrus in the next few days. If this is not the case the mother will return and move the cubs from one location to another to better hide the smell of her young from predators. Sometimes the mother will even wait until night falls to return to her cubs, so that she is not as easily followed.

Cubs

The cubs are usually weaned at 6-8 weeks and will then leave the den and follow the mother from then on. If a young cub loses its original family, due to some great misfortune, it will find another family and join them despite the ill will from the new mother and being out cast by the new brothers and sisters. At 5 months old, the cubs are playing with one another, sharpening their stalking, chasing, and wrestling skills in a playful manner. At 6 months the mother Cheetah will fetch live prey injuring it and then giving it to the cubs so they may practice the art of the kill. At 8 months the cubs are chasing inappropriately large prey such as Giraffes. A Cheetah will not be a very skilled and efficient hunter until about 3 years of age. Cheetah cubs kill less than 10% of the prey, which the family feeds on. At 15-24 months the cubs will leave the mother, but may stay together for several more months. Young females will leave her brothers when they reach sexual maturity. Young males will travel far from parents and will lay claim to a territory as large as 300-800 square miles. Young females will stay closer to home and may even overlap territory with the mother.

Social System

Female Cheetahs are solitary animals except when rearing a litter. Mothers with cubs will usually stay with in close proximity of one another. Females only come in contact with other Cheetahs in order to mate.

Males on the other hand will sometimes form coalitions of 2-3 in order to defend more land. These coalitions are mostly formed between brothers, but sometimes include outsiders. 30 % of coalitions are unrelated. Males are not territorial towards each other, but are in fact towards other males or coalitions. Due to coalitions fighting against one another the ratio has dropped to one male for every two females.

Communication

Cheetahs communicate in many different ways. Some of these are through vocalizations such as purrs, bleats, barks, growls, hisses, and a high pitched chirping sound. Another way to communicate is through marking. A Cheetah will mark their territory by urinating or by cheek and chin rubbing. Saliva that is secreted contains the same chemical information about the animals, as does the urine. Cheetahs will mark territory so that they can better avoid one another.

Hunting

The Cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching a top speed of 70 mph! The Cheetah however can only run for short sprints of up to 300 yards. These sprints will usually last for 20 seconds, but rarely ever reach a full minute. Non-retractable claws and tough pads on their feet closely resemble that of a dog. These features offer better traction to get to those high speeds. A long heavy tail acts as a rudder for making those sharp turns while in pursuit. The Cheetah’s long fluid body is set over extremely light bones, this accompanied with large nasal passages, and oversized lungs, liver, heart and adrenals enable rapid physical response. This response is imperative to accommodate the Cheetah’s way of hunting. A strong spring-like spine gives added reach to the Cheetah’s long legs. A stride is the measured distance between successive imprints of the same paw. With the added reach given by the spine 1 stride can stretch as far as 7-8 meters. The Cheetah averages 4 strides per second or 1 stride per .28 seconds as the horse averages 1 stride per .44 seconds and can reach top speeds of 43 mph. The Cheetah can out run the horse going from 0-45 mph in 2 seconds flat, though this will not very last very long. The horse would inevitably win in the long run.

Cheetahs are equipped with several special features that are crucial in successful and efficient hunting. Binocular vision is a very important asset since Cheetahs rely on sight to hunt as opposed to scent. The retinal fovea of the eye is of an elongated shape, giving a sharp wide-angle view. This aspect of the eye is also adapted for speed. The dark “tear marks” on the Cheetahs face reduce glare from the bright sun also and aid in excellent vision. The Cheetahs will perch upon a fallen tree or rocky ledge to scope out the surroundings and potential prey. The Cheetah is also a very vocal animal. With the ability to mimic the calls of some birds, by displaying a high pitched chirping sound. When a bird falls for this deceiving call it will also fall prey to the sly Cheetah.

 

 

The Cheetah is a carnivorous animal and a diurnal hunter, which means it hunts during the day usually early morning and late afternoon. Cheetahs are solitary hunters except when living in a coalition. When this is the case they will hunt in groups so that they can take down larger prey. Unlike the common misconception, the Cheetah will pick out animals that have strayed from the herd as a target, not necessarily the weak or old. After chasing down and catching the prey, the Cheetah suffocates larger animals with a bite to the jugular and holding for as long as 15-25 minutes. Smaller animals are killed with a quick bite to the head usually killing them instantly. By this time the Cheetah is so tired from the chase that it must wait for as long as a half hour before consuming its meal, and could not fend off other predators, who might want to steal the Cheetah’s dinner. The Cheetah’s resting heart rate is approximately 120-170 beats per minute, while it’s heart rate after a chase is 200-250 beats per minute. The Cheetah’s resting breaths vary from 20-30 per minute depending on whether the Cheetah is in direct sunlight or in the shade, after a chase the Cheetah’s breaths per minute are 150-200! When done resting the Cheetah will quickly eat, as they can not defend their food from other predators for this reason they will not bury the food and come back for another meal. Half of the Cheetah’s hunts are successful, the other half are hard life lessons.

Diet

The Cheetah’s diet consists of a wide range of prey from steenbok, rabbits, wildebeest calves, duikers, kudu, and impala to springbok, hartebeest, oryx, roan, sable, birds and warthog. The most preferred and most hunted by the cheetah however is the Thompson’s Gazelle. Something about these graceful animals just makes a Cheetah’s tummy roar! Cheetahs consume an average of 6-8 lbs. of food each day, and in some cases may go as long as 4-10 days with out water.

Extinction Is Forever

The Cheetah is considered Endangered in Appendix 1 to the Conservation Of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Humans have been proven to be the most feared predator by the Cheetah. Living space and adequate food supply is being robbed from these innocent creatures. Farmland is expanding into the Cheetah’s natural environment leaving the Cheetah to move on or be killed by paranoid farmers. A law was passed authorizing ranchers to shoot on sight any Cheetahs due to an alleged imposing threat to livestock. In 1980 alone ranchers killed a reported 6,829 Cheetahs. Poachers also pose a threat to the Cheetah, whose pelt was coveted and was doomed to become a fad. In the 1960’s 1,500 Cheetah pelts each year were imported into the United States due to an accessory fad. It was considered hip and a sign of wealth to wear a Cheetah fur. The number of Cheetahs has consistently dropped every year since 1900. In 1900 there were over 100,000 Cheetahs, in 1970 the numbers plummeted to 20,000-25,000 Cheetahs, and to this day there are only 10,000 Cheetahs. One tenth of which live in captivity. Due to the unavailability of land and food and the dangerous threat brought on by ranchers and poachers the Cheetah’s lifespan in the wild is 4-6 years, where as in captivity the Cheetah will live to 10-15 years old.

The cheetah, which has suffered a dramatic 90 per cent decline over the past century, becoming extinct in 18 countries of its original range, with less than 10,000 adults surviving in Africa and a meagre 50 in Asia, mainly around Iran’s Kavir desert, due to severe habitat loss, over-hunting and poor breeding in captivity. November 2008 –The critically endangered cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal, is set to obtain added international protection next week at a United Nations-backed conference seeking to strengthen conservation of species that often cross national borders.

Felid TAG 2003 recommendation: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). After determining correct husbandry techniques for reproduction,
cheetah populations have increased without the need for additional founders. Unfortunately, recent importations usually sought specimens of the “king” or “rex” color morpho-types which are not appropriate for conservation breeding. Some of these individuals have been imported without regard to genetic need and often related to individuals already in North America. The target population for cheetahs in North America is 300 individuals. Since disease and stress are such prevalent causes for cheetah mortality, many of the new breedings will take place off zoo properties.

How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 680 in zoos worldwide, with 227 being in the U.S.

See more Cheetahs:

 

Cheetahs

 

Cougar Facts

Cougar Facts

Cougar – Felis concolor

 

Common Names: Cougar, Puma, Panther,
Mountain Lion, Catamount
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Puma)
Species: concolor
Sub-species:
Eastern Texas to Florida – P.c.coryi –IUCN: Endangered, CITES:Appendix I Northeastern US and southeastern Canada Cougar – P.c. couguar – IUCN: Endangered, CITES: Appendix I Central American Cougar – P.c. costaricensis – CITES: Appendix I
Misc: The cougar has the greatest natural distribution of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere except for man.

The cougar is extremely agile and has great jumping power and may leap from the ground up to a height of 18 feet into a tree. It is a good swimmer but prefers not to enter the water. Sight is its most acute sense with a good sense of hearing, but is thought to have a poorly developed sense of smell.

Size and Appearance: The cougar is the largest cat in the genus “felis”, and is comparable in size as the leopard. They vary in length from 59 – 108 inches with a tail length of 21 – 36 inches, and height from 23 – 28 inches at the shoulder. Weight can vary greatly, between 75 and 250 pounds. They have a long body with a small head, short face, and a long neck and tail. They are powerfully built, and the hind legs are larger than the front. The ears are small, short and rounded.

Habitat: The cougar thrives in montane, coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, swamps, grassland, dry brush country, or any other area with adequate cover and prey.

Distribution: Western North America from British Columbia and south Alberta south through west Wyoming to California and west Texas. Also south Texas, Louisiana, south Alabama, Tennessee, and peninsular Florida.

Reproduction and Offspring: There is no fixed mating season, but in North America, the majority of births occur between late winter and early spring. Females tend to reproduce every other year, and give birth to litters of 1 – 6 (usually 2-3) kittens after a gestation of 90-96 days. Mothers give birth to their young in dens that are lined with moss or vegetation, usually in rock shelters, crevices, piles of rocks, thickets, caves, or some other protected place. Kittens weigh approximately 7-16 ounces at birth, and have spotted coats until they are around 6 months old. They will continue to nurse for 3 or more months, but will begin to take meat at 6 weeks. The kittens will remain with their mothers until they are 1-2 years old, and after separating, siblings will remain together for another 2-3 months. Females reach sexual maturity around 2.5 and males around 3 years. They will not begin to reproduce until they have established themselves a permanent home area. The may remain reproductive until 12 years of age for females, and 20 years for males.

In captivity, cougars have lived over 20 years, as compared to 8 – 10 in the wild.  At Big Cat Rescue one cougar lived to one month shy of 30 years.

Social System and Communication: Cougars are solitary cats and will avoid other individuals except for during mating. They communicate by the use visual and olfactory signals, and the males regularly make scrapes in the soil or snow. Their vocalizations include growls, hisses, and bird-like whistles. They purr like the domestic cats, and during estrus, the females give off loud, hair-raising screams. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE

Hunting and Diet: Cougars primarily feed on large mammals, preferring deer, but they will also eat Coyotes, Porcupines, Beaver, mice marmots, hares, raccoons, birds and even grasshoppers. They kill by stalking to within 30 feet of their prey before pouncing from its hiding place. It leaps onto its victim’s back and bites into the neck and holds with its sharp claws.

Principal Threats: According to 2001 statistics provided from actual sales of hunting permits, almost 2100 cougars are still being killed each year. This figure does not include all the cougars killed by hunters who do not buy licenses nor report their kills. Less than 3% of our population are hunters but they kill over 100 million animals each year for sport.

Status: CITES: Appendix I, USDI: Endangered

2003 Felid TAG recommendation: Puma (Puma concolor). A widely held species, the Felid TAG is urging the elimination of this species from collections, whenever possible, in favor of similar-sized, but rarer SSP or PMP felid species. Only acquisition of pumas needed for education or zoogeographic exhibit themes is recommended. With the exception of the Florida panther, no breeding is recommended. The present zoo population of pumas is comprised of more than 200 individuals, and the studbook keeper is striving to reduce this number to 120 or less. In cases of exhibition need, new animals should be acquired from other AZA institutions or, alternatively, cubs from sanctuary or rescue programs.

 

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 334 in zoos worldwide, with 119 being in the U.S.

 

 

Meet our cougars friends:

 

Cougars of BCR

 

http://bigcatrescue.org/catbio/

 

Domestic Cat Facts

Domestic Cat Facts

Domestic Cats

 

Sidney the domestic cat.  Shhh! Don't let her hear you call her that.Common Name: Domestic Cat, House Cat

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Felis

Species: catus

 

Misc.:One of the most popular pets of all times, there is currently more than 100 million animals in existence worldwide. Humans spend more than $1.5 billion dollars per year feeding their feline companions, and more than $200 million per year on cat litter!

There are more than 30 different breeds of domestic cat and it is believed that all originated from the African Wildcat. Domestication is thought to have occurred more than 4000 years ago in Egypt, and originally occurred for religious purposes.

The expression that most aptly describes the difference between the canine companion versus the feline companion is “My dog thinks he’s human, my cat thinks he’s god”.

SListen to Domestic Cat Infoize and Appearance: Almost impossible to describe, the domestic cat comes in a wide variety of colors and coat lengths. There are longhaired breeds like the Persian, and cats with virtually no hair like the Mexican Hairless. There are even cats with almost no tail at all like the Manx cat, or very short legs like the Munchkin. They can be as varied in size, ranging from 5 pounds all the way up to more than 20.

Habitat: Everywhere, mostly associated with human dwellings. Sadly, due to the irresponsibility of man, there are now feral populations of domestic cats everywhere.

Distribution: Worldwide.

Reproduction and Offspring: Females tend to come in heat 3-4 times per year, and after a gestation of 63-66 days they produce litters of 1-8 kittens, most commonly 3-5. They weigh 3-4 ounces at birth, and their eyes open between 7-20 days. They learn to walk around 9-15 days, eat solid food at 4 weeks and are weaned between 8-10 weeks. Independence is around 6 months, with sexual maturity being reached around 10-12 months.

Social System and Communication: Solitary by nature, yet in areas with abundant food sources, they establish a social organization and hierarchies and tolerate each other quite well.

Hunting and Diet: Outdoor and feral cats prey on a variety of small mammals and birds, including mice, rats, squirrels, gophers, moles, shrews, hares and rabbits. As for birds, they prefer sparrows, starlings, robins, doves, and ground nesting birds like grouse, quail and pheasants. Cats will also include grass and other vegetation as part of their diet. Fish, insects and domestic chickens may also be taken.

Principal Threats: Because of their ability to survive so well and reproduce in large numbers, cats have become nuisances in areas of human populations. Each year, hundreds of thousands of unwanted or abandoned cats are euthanised here in the United States alone. Because humans are also irresponsible in their keeping of pets and do not spay and neuter, the number of unwanted kittens is astronomical, adding to the numbers of euthanised animals each year. Keeping animals as outdoor cats invites thousands of cats to be killed by automobiles each year, or by other predators.

 

HomeoAnimal interviewed 200 rescues and shelters allowing them to create the best content possible in order to help these animals that only ask for the RIGHT person to adopt them.  They created a series of 12 articles. In these, they talk about the benefits of adopting an animal, the myths that are all too often associated with adoption, what one should consider before adopting and during adoption process, and also tips for taking care of the new chosen pet.  http://www.homeoanimal.com/blog-animal-health/ultimate-guide-pet-adoption-sneak-preview/

Best cat quotes:  http://www.curatedquotes.com/cat-quotes/ 

 

How Did Cats Come To Live Among Us?

 

June 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) — Painstaking genetic research shows that the cat first became domesticated soon after humans began farming and building the first civilizations, somewhere in the ancient Near East.

And, in typical feline fashion, the decision to take up residence was theirs.

“Cats weren’t domesticated on purpose, they just kind of invited themselves in,” said study lead author Carlos Driscoll, a doctoral fellow at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He conducted the research while at the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, in Frederick, Md.

By now, the world’s Fluffys and Sylvesters have planted their paws firmly across the globe. But these millions of cats appear to share a common ancestor, according to researchers reporting in the June 29, 2007 issue of Science.

Driscoll’s team used genetic material gathered from cats worldwide to distinguish wild breeds from domesticated cats and hybrids, and to help determine when and where domestication first occurred.

“Cat domestication became complete by about 3,600 years ago, although the process probably began much earlier,” Driscoll said. “It probably began with the origins of agriculture, which was about 12,000 years ago.”

As farmland in the Fertile Crescent (modern-day Iraq) kept humans rooted in one locale, the first cities grew.

“Cats are very adaptable, and they adapted themselves to this new environment,” Driscoll said.

Still, outside of their talent for eating mice and rats, felines weren’t of any obvious value to humankind — not like pigs, goats and cattle, which people worked hard to domesticate.

Instead, cats likely won humans over with a charm offensive, Driscoll said.

“Cats are nice. They tame down well, and there was just no reason for people not to like them,” he said. As cats started to hang around cities and homes, “they were tolerated and encouraged,” he added. It appears to have been the perfect plan, since the house cat now outranks the dog as the world’s most populous pet.

The NCI study drew on genetic material from 979 domestic cats found “in Scotland, down though Cape Town, and all the way to Mongolia and lots of places in between,” Driscoll said. The researchers also sampled the DNA of the world’s remaining pockets of truly wild cats: Felis silvestris silvestris in Europe; Felis s. lybica in Africa and the Near East; Felis s. ornata in Central Asia; Felis s. cafra from the Sahara desert, and Felis s. bieti from the Chinese desert.

Prior to this work, specialists in feline evolution had based much of their theories on the archaeological and paleontological record. But, Driscoll said, cats’ bones and other remains can only tell scientists so much. “There’s actually very little physiological difference between wild cats and domestic cats,” he said. “It’s very difficult to tell them apart from their bones.”

The common house cat also varies little in behavioral terms from its wilder cousins, he said. “Just by knowing how [house] cats can survive in the wild, you can tell they’re not very much changed from their wild ancestors,” Driscoll said. “They hunt just as well as a wild cat, and they breed even more prolifically.”

Based largely on the archaeological record, some experts had speculated that the domestication of the cat occurred in separate places at separate times, giving rise to distinct lineages around the world.

But the new gene study tells a different tale.

All [domestic] cats are related to one another, and they all come from the same place, and that’s the Near East” Driscoll said. Today’s domestic cats probably all descend from the wild cat native to the area, Felis s. lybica.

Looking much farther back into the record, Driscoll and his colleagues also discovered that the various lineages of wild cat began branching off from a common ancestor, Felis silvestris, more than 100,000 years ago — much earlier than was originally assumed.

The findings are more than an historical curiosity. “Of the 36 or 37 species of cat, all of them are threatened or endangered except for the domestic cat. There’s a real conservation aspect of this work,” Driscoll pointed out. That’s because one big problem facing the world’s wild cats is their tendency to breed with feral relatives of nearby domestic cats.

The new findings “give us more evidence for a genetic basis to differentiate wild cats from domestic cats and the hybrids of the two,” explained Bill Swanson, director of animal research at the Cincinnati Zoo. “So, if you are working to conserve wild cats, it gives you a way to determine if that population is genetically pure or if there have been domestic cat genes incorporated into that population,” he said.

Interbreeding is a particular problem for European varieties, such as the Scottish wildcat, a focus of Driscoll’s work in the field.

That the gene work was carried out at the National Cancer Institute points to its importance for human health, as well.

“Cats are great models for human genetic disease,” Driscoll explained. “Things like retinal atrophy, for example. The Laboratory of Genomic Diversity is interested in that. They’re interested in making the cat a better ‘model.’ This is a kind of genetic background check on the cat.”

 

More information

Find out more about cat genome research at the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity:
http://home.ncifcrf.gov/ccr/lgd/comparative_genome/
catgenome/whythecat.asp
http://www.forbes.com/forbeslife/health/feeds/
hscout/2007/06/28/hscout606011.html

See why cats land on their feet in this interesting video.

Information reprinted With Permission from Feline Facts

For information on spaying and neutering a cat visit Spay and Play.

Watch this funny video of big cats being cats.

 

 

Before you buy a kitten or take your pet to a shelter

 

As I read this, I thought that so much of this sentiment applies to what we witness in our rescuing of wildcats. “DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SANCTUARIES FILL UP” – just changing a few words…it’s what we try to educate, too. (Having put in time volunteering at a shelter’s euthanasia department, crying my way home every day, believe me, this all rings very true and deserves sharing far and wide). These are some of the very same issues our staff deal with every day, too.

“I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call.

As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day.

Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know. That puppy or kitten you just sold will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not cute anymore.

So, how would you feel if you knew that there’s about a 90% chance that pet will never walk out of the shelter it is going to be dumped at? Purebred or not! About 50% of all of the pets that are “owner surrenders” or “strays,” that come into my shelter are purebred.

The most common excuses I hear are;

“We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving to that doesn’t allow pets?

Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would.” How big did you think a German Shepherd would get?

“We don’t have time for her.” Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs!

“She’s tearing up our yard.” How about making her a part of your family?

They always tell me: “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her. We know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good pet.” Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is?

Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies.

Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with about 25 other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it.

If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk or give them a loving pat. If not, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose.

If your pet is an adult, black, part exotic, or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those pets just don’t get adopted.

It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are. If your pet doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed.  If the shelter isn’t full and your pet is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long.

Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment.

If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles, chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because shelters just don’t have the funds to pay for even a $100 treatment.

Bobtailed Not Bobcats

Bobtailed Not Bobcats

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down:”

First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk – happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room,” every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them.

Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 vet techs depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a euthanasia tech or a vet will start the process. They will find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff.” Hopefully, your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams.

They all don’t just “go to sleep,” sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves. When it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage.

What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right? I hope that those of you that have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head I deal with everyday on the way home from work.

I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and realize that the lives you are affecting go much further than the pets you dump at a shelter.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I do my best to save every life I can but rescues are always full, and there are more animals coming in everyday than there are homes.

My point to all of this DON’T BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER PETS DIE!

Hate me if you want to. The truth hurts and reality is what it is. I just hope I maybe changed one person’s mind about breeding their pet, taking their loving pet to a shelter, or buying a pet. I hope that someone will walk into my shelter and say “I saw this and it made me want to adopt.”

THAT WOULD MAKE IT WORTH IT!!!!”

-Anonymous

If you like what we are doing to promote responsible cat care you can help us do it:

 

Voice talent by Bonnie-Jean Creais 2006

 

Cats & Kittens

cats & kittens

View “Cats & Kittens” on Spundge

Jaguar Facts

Jaguar Facts

Jaguar

 

Jaguar: Panthera onca
Common Name: Jaguar
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Pantherinae Panthera
Species: onca
Misc: The Jaguar and the Leopard are often confused with one another in zoos. Their coloring and markings are so similar that it is difficult for people to distinguish them. The difference lies in the center of the Jaguars rosettes, because unlike the leopard, the Jaguar has spots inside of its rosettes! The Jag is also a much stockier animal than its cousin, with shorter legs and tail – giving it more of a pit bull type appearance.

 

Leopard coat pattern Jaguar coat pattern

SAVEJAGS
The name Jaguar comes from the ancient Indian name “yaguar” which meant “the killer which overcomes its prey in a single bound.”

Size and Appearance: Jags are the largest felines in the Americas. Adult males can reach an overall length of more than 7 feet, and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds. As mentioned above, its coat color and markings are very similar to the leopard, with a rich tawny or yellow background with large black rosettes and spots. It has a larger head, more compact body, and much more powerful paws! The Jaguar also occurs with an all black (melanistic) coat, and like the leopard, the spots can still be seen on black individuals. Albino individuals have been reported as well.

Habitat: The Jaguar is commonly found in rain forests, savannahs, and swamps, but at the northern end of its territory it may enter scrub country and even deserts. The Jaguar still has a stronghold in the Amazon basin, but has been nearly wiped out of all drier regions. Wherever it is found, it requires fresh water as the Jaguar is an excellent swimmer. To see Jaguars in the wild, or help them there, check out www.guato.org

Distribution: Once found here in the United States (California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida), this cat was hunted to extinction here in the late 1940s. Today, it is found in Mexico, but swiftly declining and Central America, and the strongest populations being found in the Mato Grosso, Brazil; The Pantanal, bordering Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay; Chiapas State, Mexico; and the Yucatan Peninsula/northern Guatemala/Belize.

Reproduction and Offspring: Jaguars have no defined breeding season and will mate any time of year. After a gestation period of about 100 days, the female will give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs. Mothers will continue to feed and protect her young until they are about 1 year old, and they will continue to stay with her until they are about 2 years old. They will reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years for females, and 3-4 for males.

In captivity, jags lived over 20 years, as compared to 11 – 12 in the wild.

Social System and Communication: The Jaguar is solitary and terrestrial, although it is an adept tree climber. It marks its territory with urine and tree scrapes, in the same fashion as the other great cats. It has a variety of vocalizations, including, roars, grunts, and meows.

Hunting and Diet: Jaguars will pursue almost any kind of animal prey within its range, with its favorite being the peccary (a type of wild pig) and the capybara (the worlds largest rodent). Other food items are caiman, tapirs, and fish. Jaguars differ from all the other cats in their method of killing. Once they’ve caught their prey they pierce the skulls with their canines, demonstrating the amazing strength of their powerful jaws. They were once presumed to be nocturnal, but recent studies have shown that they are active during the daytime, with high peaks of activity during dawn and dusk. Jaguars are also more energetic than their larger cousins, and are active for 50-60% of a 24 hour period.

Threats: Deforestation rates are high in Latin America and fragmentation of forest habitat isolates jaguar populations so that they are more vulnerable to Jaguar.jpg (100639 bytes)the predations of man. People compete with jaguars for prey, and jaguars are frequently shot on sight, despite protective legislation. Jaguars are also known to kill cattle, and are killed by ranchers as pest species. The vulnerability of the jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance by the mid-1900’s from the south-western US and northern Mexico. Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts has declined drastically since the mid-1970’s, when anti-fur campaigns and CITES controls progressively shut down international markets.

Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Near Threatened. The jaguar is fully protected at the national level across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, and hunting restrictions in place in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. The species also occurs within protected areas in some of its range.

jaguars by the pool at Big Cat RescueFelid TAG recommendation: Jaguar (Pantherinae Panthera onca). Although perhaps the longest-lived large felid species, the recently approved SSP found the North American population in AZA zoos and most other locations to be aging and virtually untraceable. As this time, only 22 of the 95 U.S. jaguars can be traced back to nature. This population is being managed as an education population because of its relative abundance in many parts of its range. Additional founders are expected to be periodically available for inclusion into the SSP. The target population is 120 individuals.

How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 292 worldwide, with 95 being in the U.S.

What is Big Cat Rescue doing for the Jaguar? We participated in an AZA sanctioned study by being the only facility to provide tracking information via detailed photos and casts of paw prints from our captive South American Pumas so that they could be discerned from jaguar tracks in Costa Rica. This will help researchers determine local populations and their habits so that land can be protected for their future.

National Geographic aired a wonderful documentary by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz called, In Search of the Jaguar.

Jaguar Sound

Big Cat Rescue Helps Protect Jaguars in Belize

 

mistletoe and ladyhill habitat julyBelize Jaguar Project: In January 2015 an enclosure for two displaced wild jaguars, Lady Hill and Mistletoe, in Belize was sponsored in honor of all of the Big Cat Rescue volunteers, interns, and staff.  Since then the team at the Belize Zoo has been working through the rainy season to build the enclosure.
The main structure is now complete and includes night houses, swimming pools, and lots of natural habitat for these two jaguars to enjoy.  The last step is to roof the enclosure, which they are currently working on.  Here are a few photos of the progress.

 

These two jaguars were nuisance cats who came into very close proximity to where people reside.  In order to spare their lives they were trapped and taken to the Belize Zoo which is a sanctuary for native wildlife that can not be released back into the wild.  Had these two jaguars not been removed, they would have been terminated by the government.

 

mistletoe explores her new roam area July

mistletoe and ladyhill run with jaguar zookeeper Tim Sho

 

 

 

 

Meet some of the jaguars who have lived at Big Cat Rescue:

 

Jaguars of BCR