This art palette painting, "Florida Wild", was custom made for my daughter who lives in Florida, near me in Miami, and wanted something fun and colorful for her new apartment. She decided on the Beautiful Florida Panther, and requested it have burning green eyes. I was happy to oblige and create this fun, whimsical portrayal of a tropical scene with the panther front and center. It is painted on one of my actual art palettes and coated in resin to create a beautiful shine that makes the colors really pop and come alive. The back side of the palette has textured paint from using it to create other artworks, and also has a resin coating. So, this two sided work of art can be displayed with the panther or the other side as a purely colorful abstract. As a cat person this was a lot of fun to paint, and being that the Florida panther is native to Florida, where I call home, made it even more special.
The Florida panther has been on the U.S. endangered species list since 1967, but through conservation efforts since, the panther is making a strong recovery. It is the most endangered cat in North America, and used to roam as far flung as Arkansas, but now are only found in Florida. They are the only subspecies of mountain lions that exist in the eastern U.S. They are solitary creatures that only come together to mate, or, when raising their litter of one to three kittens. Florida panthers live to be about 12 years old, but with such a small population their lifespan has declined due to genetic disorders, disease and car accidents. They are actually a subspecies of mountain lions, and can be distinguished by having a slightly crooked tail and a "cowlick" of hair on their backs that doesn't conform to the rest of their coat.
There are currently around 120-130 Florida panthers left in the wild, and are mostly found in South Florida in the Everglades or Big Cypress. Efforts to rewild the panther population came from a breeding program in 1995 that introduced eight Texas female cougars to breed with the remaining male Florida Panthers to broaden the gene pool and help prevent genetic abnormalities due to in-breeding from such a small population. These efforts helped to more than double the current population of Florida panthers. Without this program the panthers would likely be extinct in the wild, and shows that through conservation efforts, and thinking outside the box, species can be saved from extinction. But, the panthers still have a long way to go before they can be safely removed from the endangered list, and efforts to protect them and their habitats will be crucial to making sure these beautiful, wild and elusive creatures survive for generations to come.