Of cats and Haruspices: Genetic intervention in the Florida panther. Response to Pimm et al. (2006)

D. S. Maehr, P. Crowley, J. J. Cox, M. J. Lacki, J. L. Larkin, T. S. Hoctor, L. D. Harris, P. M. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The claim that the Florida panther Puma concolor coryi has been genetically rescued by the introduction of Texas cougars P. c. stanleyana is based on the questionable development and interpretation of a maximum likelihood model, data dredging and a misleading presentation of historical data. In addition, the claim that Florida panther 'hybrids are expanding the known range of habitats panthers occupy and use' is offered in the absence of data or supporting analyses. By (1) ignoring regional differences in habitat quality, (2) ignoring the earlier extinction of the hybrid Everglades population, (3) ignoring the influence of social structure on the relative success of Texas cougars and their offspring, (4) using cursory spatial analyses of panthers before and after intervention and (5) choosing a second-best model, a misleading scenario was presented. Undoubtedly hybrid animals have increased in abundance and distribution on the south Florida landscape, but it is quite possible that current patterns of abundance and distribution would be similar if purebred Florida panthers had been introduced instead of Texas cougars in 1995. This is because all the demographic events that have occurred since genetic intervention in 1995 can be more reasonably explained by factors relating to panther social structure and habitat variability. We are hopeful that the current genetic management effort will contribute to the recovery of this endangered population; however, it is too early to claim that this intervention has succeeded or failed. We suggest a number of ways in which more reliable insight on this issue might be obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-132
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Florida panther
  • Genetic augmentation
  • Habitat variability
  • Puma concolor coryi
  • Social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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