17% of Florida Panthers Killed Last Year in Car Collisions

panther crossing sign photo

photo: Stig Nygaard

There are only about 100 Florida panthers left in the wild. And last year 17 of them were killed by collisions with cars, Defenders of Wildlife says (hat tip to Mongabay...). The last of those deaths occurred on the 30th of December, when a four-year old female cat was killed in Collier County. 2009's deaths set a new record for panther deaths due to vehicle collision and is a marked increase from 2008 numbers:In 2008, ten panthers met their doom on the bumper of a speeding car, with the previous record of fifteen cat-car collisions being set in 2007.

florida panther photo

photo: Monica R.

Though current panther numbers are significantly higher than they were two decades ago, when the cats' population was down to just 20-30 individuals, Defenders of Wildlife says, "The toll that vehicle collisions are taking on the panther's population is a serious obstacle to recovery, and the road and vehicles themselves are inhibiting the panther's efforts to expand its range."

Here's Where to Start Solving the Problem
As what can be done to minimize panther deaths on Florida's roads, Defenders of Wildlife lists a number on their website, but topping the list is:

  • The creation of a regional transportation plan that protects panthers, other wildlife and motorists in southwest Florida counties.
  • The protection of habitat and corridors on public and private lands that provide a network of panther range.
  • The protection of panthers along more highway segments by incorporating wildlife crossing, fencing and additional speed zones in appropriate locations by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions, southwest Florida transportation departments and area developers.

Other than the ongoing problem of habitat loss--each breeding unit of panthers requires about 200 square miles of habitat, something increasingly hard to find in south Florida--automobile collisions are the greatest cause of panther deaths in Florida by humans, the animals being protected from legal hunting in the state since the late 1950s.

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