Puma and Panther Range

Range of the Puma

The puma, of which panthers are a subspecies, once had the largest range of any land mammal in the Americas. This large cat lived as far north as the Yukon in Canada, with its range extending all the way to the southern tip of South America. It was well adapted to a wide range of environments from coniferous forests to deserts, mountains and rain forests.

Today in the U.S., puma are found in about half of their original range, primarily in the sparsely populated mountain and desert regions of western states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming)

The only puma population east of the Mississippi River are Florida panthers.

Map of North America showing Puma and Panther RangesMaps showing distribution of North American puma and the current range of the Florida panther
North American puma range is outlined in black and covers the western part of United States and Canada.  Florida panther range is outlined in pink and covers the southeastern United States.  Known panther occurrences shown as blue circles mainly south of Orlando, Florida and most panther breeding occurs in the orange-shaded area in south Florida around the Everglades.

Like other wildlife, puma have four requirements: food, cover, water and space. Food for puma includes large prey, most commonly deer, as well as smaller animals like raccoons. Cover can be anything that provides shelter from the elements for resting, for mothers to conceal their young or vegetation and objects that conceal puma while stalking prey. Water is rarely a problem for puma, except for individuals living in the driest parts of the western U.S. However, water affects the puma’s habitat and prey and has an indirect influence on their movements or the areas they use. Lastly, space is needed to ensure other survival requirements can be met, mates can be located and young adult puma can establish their territories.


Range of the Florida Panther

 In the southeastern U.S., panthers formerly ranged throughout Florida, as far west as Arkansas and as far north as South Carolina. Today only about 120-230 adult panthers exist, primarily in southwest Florida. Young males in search of their own territories have been documented in other parts of Florida but most of the breeding population remains restricted to south Florida, below the Caloosahatchee River. Conversely, it is not uncommon to find male panthers throughout the Florida peninsula, and one male ventured into western Georgia where he was shot and killed in 2008.

Map of known panther occurrences and breeding rangeKnown occurrences of Florida panthers including where most breeding occurs
All known occurrences of Florida panthers shown in blue with most occurring south of Orlando, around Lake Okeechobee and down to the end of the pennisula.  The area where most panther breeding occurs is shown in orange with all occurring south of Lake Okeechobee and throughout the Everglades area.

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