The Leslie M. Duncan Memorial Trail is a great add-on to the Panther Trail
. The Memorial Trail starts from the southern side of the parking lot. Push the gate open and be sure that it shuts behind you to help keep wildlife out of the parking lot/highway. The trail is wheelchair accessible so it is usually in great condition and allows you to look around a bit more than on the Panther Trail
. There are several interpretive signs along the way, though a nice service project could be for someone to bring a bottle of water and clean them off so they are easily readable again. At the SW corner of the loop, there is a small boardwalk that spurs off to a short boardwalk and observation platform overlooking Dragonfly Pond. On the SSE side of the loop, there is a junction with the less groomed Panther Trail
The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered of all mammals on Earth with only 20 panthers existing at one point in the 1970s. With approximately 230 animals currently, this species has bounced back, but is still on the ropes. The Florida Panther is known as an "umbrella species," meaning that if you protect the habitat for the panther, you protect the habitat for hundreds of other animals. This is one of those special places that protects some habitat for Florida Panthers. Historically, they used to be found in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Their range and population have been affected primarily by hunting and urbanization causing habitat loss. Today, they are almost exclusively found in Southern Florida, though in 2017, the first evidence since 1973 of a female mating north of the Caloosahatchee River was found and males (who have much larger roaming areas than females) have been observed into Georgia.
One of the easiest things YOU can do to protect the Florida Panther and help it be removed from the endangered species list is to drive the speed limit. The area between I-75 and Immokalee has some of the highest vehicle-panther accident rates, which is one of the primary causes of mortality for panthers. There are slower nighttime speed limits in this area, so please observe them. Remember, there are around 200 of them on Earth. Hitting just one with a car removes 0.5% of the entire species. In human terms, that would be the equivalent of a massive plague that removed 350 million humans. (That's more than the entire population of the United States! It's worth it to drive the speed limit and be aware....)