Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 540 National Wildlife Refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, the restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats with the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Cover: Florida Panthe , Puma concolor coryi; left: Clamshell orchid, Prosthechia cochleata, is a rare epiphytic orchid that is found in several remote swamps on the Refuge; right: Cypress forests are a dominant habitat type that is flooded for a majority of the year.
The National Wildlife Refuge System For over a centur , the National Wildlife Refuge System has been the hidden jewel among our nation’s public lands. Nearly a century after Theodore Roosevelt’s 1903 Executive Order established Pelican Island Refuge in Florida, the System has grown to nearly 100 million acres and more than 540 refuges and 3,000 waterfowl production areas in 50 states and several U.S. territories. The system provides sustenance for migrating waterfowl and songbirds, open spaces for elk and pronghorn antelope, and protection for endangered species. This system of lands is unmatched anywhere in the world.
Introduction Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge was established in June 1989 under the authority of the Endangered Species Act to protect the Florida panther and its habitat. The refuge consists of 26,400 acres and is located within the heart of the Big Cypress Basin in southwest Florida. The refuge encompasses the northern origin of the Fakahatchee Strand, the largest cypress strand in the Big Cypress swamp. Florida Panther Refuge is located 20 miles east of Naples, Florida at the northwest corner of the intersection of Alligator Alley (I-75) and State Road 29. The refuge is due west of the Big Cypress National Preserve and due north of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and Picayune Strand State Forest.