Introgression Level Achieved through Florida Panther Genetic Restoration

E. Darrell Land
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 566 Commercial Blvd., Naples, FL, 34104-4709;

Robert C. Lacy
Department of Conservation Biology, Daniel F. & Ada L. Rice Center, Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield, IL, 60513;

Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) exist today as a small isolated population of 60 to 70 individuals in southern Florida after two centuries of habitat loss and persecution eliminated them from much of the southeastern United States. Many observed phenotypic traits such as cryptorchidism, kinked tails, cowlicks, and atrial septal defects are assumed to be manifestations of inbreeding. Dispersal mechanisms can no longer function to maintain genetic diversity within the small population. A plan to restore genetic diversity within the panther population to levels comparable to western puma was initiated with the release of eight Texas puma (P. c. stanleyana) in 1995. The goal was to achieve a 20% representation of Texas puma genes in the panther population. To date, four of the eight Texas pumas are still alive and have produced a minimum of 36 descendants, 25 of which are thought to still be alive. Based on our pedigree knowledge,
we calculate that the panther population has 18% to 22% representation of Texas puma genes as the result of genetic restoration.