Rare Florida Panther Slinks Into Lead in Balloting for State Animal
The final count isn't in yet, but the early returns suggest that Florida schoolchildren will preserve the vanishing Florida panther--at least in memory--by electing it to the position of state animal.
Felis concolor coryi, a variety of mountain lion, took a 1,600 vote lead over its nearest contender, the Caribbean manatee. Next in line so far is the American alligator, followed by the Key deer. Write-ins included the dolphin, turtle, monkey, oppossum, camel, salamander, rabbit, rattlesnake, and other. As of Dec. 7, the returns were in from 16 public school districts and 22 private schools.
The tannish-yellow Florida panthers have become increasingly rare in recent years, and now are "very uncommon" in Florida, according to a spokesman for the Everglades National Park, one of two protected areas where the cats breed. Some researchers believe that there are as few as 30 of the animals left; others place their estimates higher, she said. The accepted reason for their decline in numbers is loss of habitat, she said.