Do you wonder what panthers really eat? As carnivores, the big cats mainly feed on middle-sized prey, plants are not on the menu at all. Which animals they go after is dependent on the habitat they live in as well as the more specific panther species we talk about.
Did you know that panther are not their own species? Instead, leopards and jaguars with black or very dark fur fall under this genus. A genetic variation called melanism is responsible for the color pattern of the big cats. Melanism is the term for many black pigments in the fur and is the opposite of albinism.
Additionally to leopards and jaguars, there is the Florida panther which is another name for the North American cougar or mountain lion. The diet of this feline predator is somewhat different due to its size and habitat.
What Do Black Panthers Eat?
The better question would be: “What do leopards and jaguars eat?”. As we are referencing these species when we talk about black panthers.
Black leopards and black jaguars live in the wild rainforests and swamplands of Asia, Africa and America and so does their prey. The animals that these predators hunt are mostly medium-sized.
When their preferred prey is scarce due to seasonality or other factors they will go after larger or smaller animals as well.
Typical prey are middle-sized herbivores like:
This list is not nearly complete and you can add basically every animal that eats plants and shares its habitat with leopards and jaguars.
However, black panthers are also opportunistic predators that go after everything they can get when the chance is there. The only thing that matters is how much energy they have to spend to catch the creature.
When food is scarce panthers start to go after surprisingly different prey. Reptiles like snakes, lizards and even crocodiles become interesting as they live in the wetlands as well. Other species which should better be careful are monkeys, sloths and birds like owls.
When the hunger grows even amphibians such as frogs can make a decent meal.
Panthers are living closer and closer with us humans. Deforestation and habitat loss are the reasons for this process which is not only negative for the big cats.
In recent years the felines became more and more a threat to livestock like goats, sheep, cows, ducks and more. The financial damage they cause can be tremendous for producers.
What Do Florida Panthers Eat?
Florida panthers are strict carnivores as well that primarily feed on deer and wild hogs. Different from traditional black panthers they like to hunt smaller mammals. That is the reason why rabbits, armadillos and raccoons are often on the menu.
In wetlands like the everglades, Florida panthers eat small crocodiles and other reptiles like water snakes as well.
What Do White Panthers Eat?
White panthers are the opposite of black panthers and instead of melanism, albinism is the genetic change we talk about. The variation is much rare as individuals affected have big disadvantages in their life.
Prey can detect the white color more easily what reduces the success rate of hunting dramatically. Often white panthers die from starvation at a young age.
That being said, the diet itself is no different from the one black panthers eat.
What Do Chinese Panthers Eat?
Basically, Chinese panthers are just black leopards that are known to live in China or near its border. Like other leopards, they are carnivores that prefer feeding on middle-sized herbivores.
What Do Baby Panthers Eat?
The food of baby panthers is no other than what their parents eat. Feline predators are mammals that are dependent on the milk of their mothers in the first weeks after birth.
After weaning the young cubs are feeding on prey that the mother killed. Often the mother drags the dead body into the undergrowth where its young can eat undisturbed.
How Do Panthers Hunt And Kill Their Prey?
Panthers hunt at the time where their prey is most active. Typically that is dusk and dawn what is to the dark-colored predators’ advance. In the jungles, panthers find many places where they can hide.
Additionally, panthers are excellent climbers what they not only use to go after animals that live in trees. From the height, the big cats have a better overview and can watch their prey closely.
In difference to other predators like lions, wolves or honey badgers, panthers don’t chase their prey until it’s tired. Instead, they can stalk their target for hours, sometimes several days. When a suitable opportunity occurs they use the surprise effect to catch the animal in one short sprint with a large jump at the end.
They dig the claws of their front paws in the neck or shoulders of their prey while the hint feet grasp the flanks. Now they try to kill as fast as possible to avoid an energy-guzzling fight. Larger animals are killed with a targeted bite on the neck. The spinal cord breaks through the sheer power of the jaw.
If the final jump onto the prey doesn’t work that well a bite into the throat might do its job. But the panther has to expect more resistance this way. Smaller animals might also be killed by cracking the skull with the jaw.
How Do Panthers Eat Their Prey?
After a panther has killed its prey, he usually drags it into the thicket or, if the body is light enough, onto a tree. There the cat can eat undisturbed.
While small animals are eaten whole, the parts of larger ones are treated differently. Panthers eat the meat as well as some organs. Lungs, liver and heart contain a lot of nutrients and are an important part of the diet. The stomach and intestine are removed by contrast.
When the panther is full, he covers the carcass with greenery and what he can find. This is to hide the food from other predators and scavengers. When he gets hungry again and the food is still untainted, he might come back for a second meal.
How Much Do Panthers Eat?
Panthers are big cats that need a lot of energy. Especially the hunt burns a lot of calories. That demand is satisfied with huge amounts of food. A full-grown individual can eat more than 25 pounds of meat at one time.
Females that have to care for kittens can even eat more. That being said, a feline predator of this size can get along for several days without consuming any food at all.