Habitat loss and fragmentation are the greatest threats to the endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). We developed a data-based habitat model and user-friendly interface so that land managers can objectively evaluate Florida panther habitat. We used a geographic information system (GIS) and the Mahalanobis distance statistic (D2) to develop a model based on broad-scale landscape characteristics associated with panther home ranges. Variables in our model were Euclidean distance to natural land cover, road density, distance to major roads, human density, amount of natural land cover, amount of semi-natural land cover, amount of permanent or semi-permanent flooded area–open water, and a cost–distance variable. We then developed a Florida Panther Habitat Estimator tool, which automates and replicates the GIS processes used to apply the statistical habitat model. The estimator can be used by persons with moderate GIS skills to quantify effects of land-use changes on panther habitat at local and landscape scales. Example applications of the tool are presented.
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A data-based conservation planning tool for Florida panthers