(From the USFW website:) The Florida panther is a large, long-tailed cat with a great deal of color variation: pale brown or rusty upper parts, dull white or buffy under parts; tail tip, back of ears, and sides of nose are dark brown or blackish. Mature male panthers examined in the wild in Florida since 1978 have weighed from 1O2 to 154 pounds (Roelke 1990, Roelke and Glass 1992) and measured nearly 7 feet from nose to tip of tail. Females were considerably smaller, with a weight range of 50 to 1O8 pounds (Roelke 1990) and measuring about 6 feet (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1987).
So, you're wondering if I just got up this morning and thought it was time for a lesson on the wildlife in Florida, perhaps? No, though that's not a bad idea -- we have cool wildlife here.
Yesterday our Homeowner's Association sent out a second e.mail bulletin of the summer letting us know that a Florida panther has been seen in my neighborhood. The first time was at 5 am a couple weeks ago and the second time (yesterday) was mid-morning. I'm not afraid for myself -- this cat won't bother humans unless we bother it, and I have no intention of bothering it.
I'm more afraid for the panther. Or maybe it's really just a little sad. There is so much construction around here, I'm sure it's home was destroyed and it's looking for new digs and as nice as my neighborhood is, it isn't really a place for a big cat.
I admit that I do keep my eye out in the morning when I ride my bike or walk -- a little hopeful of getting a glimpse of this magnificent creature before it moves on.