Not a good week for Florida panthers

Florida panther. Photo courtesy Mark Lotz, Florida Fish and Wildlife via the Creative Commons.

Three endangered cats killed by cars within seven days

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Last week was not a good one for Florida panthers, as three of the endangered cats were killed by vehicles on southern Florida roads. Total documented panther deaths for the year now stand at 19, getting close to the record 24 mortalities tallied in 2011.

One was a mature (2.5 year-old) radio-collared female; another was a juvenile (three-month old) un-collared female and the third was a one-year-old un-collared male.

Wildlife advocates say the increasing number of road kills is not a good sign for the species, which is barely hanging on in south Florida. All three of the accidents last week were in Collier County, according to a list released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Some state officials have sought to downplay the deaths by asserting that they are a sign of an expanding population, but the science doesn’t back up those claims.

PEER pointed out that all three of  last week’s deaths deaths were in existing panther range in Southwest Florida.

“The rationalizations for official inaction get more creative year-by-year,” said PEER director Jeff Ruch.  “Rising road-kill is not a good sign for the Florida panther.

“Despite all the scientific conferences and papers, our Florida panther management strategy basically is to collect the carcasses and hope for the best,” Ruch said.

Wildlife officials estimate the wild population of panthers at about 100 to 120 animals. It’s not clear if the reproduction rate is keeping up with current mortality rate. Conservation activists say the cats need more protected habitat in Florida where they can roam, forage and breed without encountering cars and trucks.

This year’s road kill deaths have already outpaced 2011, with the busiest part of the tourist season just starting. The loss of breeding-age females is a particularly big blow to the endangered species.

Habitat continues to be lost to Florida’s sprawling development, and the animals could lose even more ground as federal land managers plan to open backcountry areas Big Cypress National Preserve to all-terrain vehicles — all while failing to protect enough critical habitat for the cats.

Both a critical habitat designation and the ATV proposal at Big Cypress are subject of ongoing legal battles.

More info on Florida panthers via PEER:





One thought on “Not a good week for Florida panthers

  1. This is too bad. I could never understand how so many porcupines were hit and I am not saying this is the same as your this piece. What I am saying that it did not take long those many years ago to figure it out that you just can’t see them at night and when you do it’s too late.

    Some animals dumb humans intentionally run over to kill them. snakes and turtles are two that come to mind.

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