Over 15 percent of Florida panther population lost last year due to car collisions

Jeremy Hance
January 07, 2010

A record number of endangered Florida panthers died this year due to car collisions, reports conservation organization, Defenders of Wildlife. Sixteen panther deaths from cars have been confirmed in 2009; an additional animal is suspected of having died from injuries due to a car in October. The mortality rate due to cars alone depletes the Florida panther population by over 15 percent. With less than 100 individuals left in the wild, every Florida panther killed before its time makes it more difficult for the animal to recover.

"Unless we take actions to avoid such tragic losses to Florida’s native wildlife, records such as these will continue to be reached each year as more and more roads and developments are built," said Laurie Macdonald, Florida director for Defenders of Wildlife. "The toll that vehicle collisions are taking on the panther’s population is a serious obstacle to their recovery, and the roads and vehicles themselves are inhibiting the panther’s efforts to expand its range."

Florida panther. Photo by: US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The organization recommends a number of solutions to save the rare panthers from further collisions, including accelerating the construction of wildlife crossings, tackling speed limits in panther areas, additional fencing, no new roads through wildlife habitat, and funding of the Florida Forever land acquisition program to purchase land for the panthers and other imperiled species.

The Florida panther has long been considered a subspecies of the mountain lion. However, recent genetic evidence suggests that the Florida panther may be too closely related to the North American cougar to be a distinct subspecies. These findings have yet to be unanimously accepted.

A large roaming hunter, the Florida panther is a flagship species, since protecting it across its wide range(over one million hectares) saves many other species and ecosystems.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (January 07, 2010).

Over 15 percent of Florida panther population lost last year due to car collisions.