Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi) are listed as an endangered subspecies in the United States and they exist in a single Florida population with <100 individuals; all known reproduction occurs south of Lake Okeechobee. Habitat loss is the biggest threat to this small population and previous studies of habitat selection have relied on very high frequency (VHF) telemetry data collected almost exclusively during diurnal periods. We investigated habitat selection of 12 panthers in the northern portion of the breeding range using 1) Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry data collected during nocturnal and diurnal periods and 2) VHF telemetry data collected only during diurnal periods. Analysis of both types of telemetry data yielded similar results as panthers selected upland (P < 0.001) and wetland (P < 0.001) forested habitat types. Our results indicated that forests are the habitats selected by panthers and generally support the current United States Fish and Wildlife Service panther habitat ranking system. We suggest that future studies with greater numbers of panthers should investigate panther habitat selection using GPS telemetry data collected throughout the range of the Florida panther and with location attempts scheduled more evenly across the diel period. Global Positioning System radiocollars were effective at obtaining previously unavailable nocturnal telemetry data on panthers; however, we recommend that panther researchers continue to collect VHF telemetry data until acquisition rates and durability of GPS collars improve.
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Vol. 72 • No. 3