Habitats on the Refuge include dense undergrowth and brush ideal for panthers to rest among and make their dens.
Right and above: the epiphytic night-fragrant and the terrestrial many-flowered grass pink orchids represent contrasting swamp and upland pine habitats, respectively.
Why is the Refuge important? The Refuge area has long been known as important Florida panther habitat. The Refuge is the core of several cats’ home ranges, and also functions as a travel corridor for animals traveling between the northern regions of Big Cypress National Preserve and the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. Female panthers routinely den and raise kittens on the Refuge. Each month, five to eleven radio-collared panthers utilize the refuge.
Refuge Habitats Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is characterized by lush tropical vegetation. There are over 700 species of plants on the Refuge. Rare orchids, bromeliads, royal palms, and cypress intermix with stands of oaks, cabbage palms, and gumbo limbo. Slash pine with saw palmetto understory lies adjacent to wet prairies blooming with glades lobelia, tickseed and prairie milkweed. This diversity of habitats depends upon the seasonal dry and wet cycles that define the south Florida climate. Summer brings daily rain showers that flood much of the refuge. The water slowly sheet-flows across the flat landscape. This water is not only the lifeblood of the refuge, but recharges the underground aquifers that supply the Refuge’s urban neighbors. As the days shorten, the daily rain showers disappear, and for the next six months, the wet prairies and swamps dry out.