‘PATH OF THE PANTHER’ Protecting a Homeland

Every now and then we come across a documentary that offers a reason to dedicate more than just a mention of the film. This is the case for “Path of the Panther”, a tightly wound film that presents a look at one of America’s endangered animals that still exists in the wild. The Florida Panther, one of the biggest cats in the world, roams South and Central Florida mostly in the famous Florida Everglades. The frontier for the huge cat has existed for many years in Florida and the population grew to nearly 180. According to bigcatrescue.org, there may be a population even greater than that number.

The film brings a case for protecting the panther (often referred to as a Puma) and pulls no punches when it comes to laying out both positive and some negative sides to the animal and humans. While the panther does have life threats from bears, snakes and alligators that live in its habitat, their biggest danger is hunters who trap and kill for sport and automobiles that hit the cats while traveling highways.

Florida panther kitten(s) on an private cattle ranch near Immokalee, Florida. Do not publish without written consent from Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and Carlton Ward Photography. Courtesy of Grizzly Creek Films

That said, the biggest threat to the panther’s habitat however, is the growth of housing that has pushed the big cats deeper into the danger zone of the Everglades. The ever increasing hazard become a big concern for wildlife preservationists and law enforcement that are charged with stopping the poaching of the animal. If you really think about it, the housing is also putting other animals in danger of extinction including migrating birds, black bears, alligators and turtles.

New housing development sprawls outward from Orlando, near where the toll road 429 branches north from Interstate 4. GPS coordinated embedded. The development, named Reunion, is adjacent to Reedy Creek, which is one of the most narrow and fragile threads of habitat in the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor. Photo courtesy of Grizzly Creek Films.

The movie will bring to your attention that unnecessary roads are being requested that will put the habitat even closer to unlivable areas for the wildlife. Director and writer Eric Bendick treats his subject with respect showing the dangers, living conditions, and threats to its habitat. Carlton Ward Jr., well known National Geographic photographer, keeps his cameras rolling deep in the glades and even during hurricane Irma (2017) that devastated the region. The film examines the havoc the animals had to face and are still dealing with during the regrowth of their habitat.

Path of the Panther will be released in theaters on February 24th throughout Florida and the USA. It was executive produced in part by Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2021 the Florida Legislature adopted the Florida Corridor Wildlife Act unanimously and was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The film is a must see. 5 out of 5 Stars.

Florida panther and her youngster PATH OF THE PANTHER Carlton Ward Photography. Courtesy of Grizzly Creek Films

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Carlton Ward Jr.
Directed By: Eric Bendick
Genre: Documentary
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 88 minutes.
Opening Date: February, 24, 2023
Released in: Theaters


Writer, critic, film editor John Delia, Sr. has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 20 years and other publications for a total of 40 years. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and Critics Association of Central Florida Send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com