As we head out of Florida I’d like to take a moment to address a recurring comment that I came across while here. I was confronted multiple times with the statement that Florida panthers are not mountain lions. This was something that I discussed with the keeper at Central Florida Zoo today. Erin Bussom, one of three keepers for their mountain lion, Boone, reassured me that while there is the distinction of Western, Eastern, and Florida Panther based on region, they are all the same species. Western mountain lions are even brought in to mate with the Florida panthers (Florida mountain lions if you will) to keep genetic diversity strong. Central Florida Zoo’s mountain lion, Boone, was found by Wildlife Park and fisheries in the west and through the SSP, Michelle Schireman, found his permanent home at Central Florida Zoo. According to Erin he was uncharacteristically shy at first to being in front of the camera but warmed up as he saw that his keeper was “ok”. He then started to move more comfortably around his enclosure and check out the enrichment that had been provided from him. He also showed us how smoothly and easily he could jump and climb around his habitat.
We are now headed to the place where everything is BIGGER; Texas! We’ll see if their mountain lions are bigger too. We are still awaiting approval from most of the places we hope to go to in Texas but hopefully it will all work out. Right now the plan is to be at the Houston Zoo on Friday.
Answer to the previous trivia question: While there is not much documentation of mountain lions swimming in the wild that I am aware of, all the mountain lions we’ve visited so far that were provided with pools seem to enjoy getting in the water and splashing around or just cooling off according to their keepers. So, while they may not be the Michael Phelps of the big cat world, they do seem to enjoy water.
Today we have an interesting fact: The Mountain Lion is the heaviest cat in America, second only to the jaguar. Worldwide, it is the fourth heaviest cat with the other big cats like the tiger, lion and jaguar ahead in the race.