Panther Deaths Spur Caution To Motorists
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Two endangered Florida panthers, one each in Lee and Collier counties, met a sad fate in collisions with motor vehicles over the Thanksgiving holiday, and that has wildlife officials concerned.
On Nov. 26, at approximately 6:30 p.m., an otherwise healthy male panther met an untimely death on Alico Road near Devore Lane in Lee County. In Collier County, a female panther eventually died from injuries sustained at about 4:50 p.m. on Nov. 29 in a collision on Oil Well Road, one mile east of Camp Keis Road.
So far in 2008, 10 Florida panthers are known to have succumbed to collisions with motor vehicles. In 2007, 14 panthers were known to have died on state highways. Though the two panthers killed recently were not struck in posted panther speed zones, motorists are cautioned to be on the lookout for the large cats near wild areas near panther zones, especially near sundown. Panthers tend to be more active during the hours between dusk and dawn, when most automobile strikes occur.
To avoid collisions with roaming panthers, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges motorists to obey posted speed limits and remain on guard for panthers crossing roadways as daylight fades.
To help protect the large cats from increasing traffic threats, the FWC along with sheriff's deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol actively enforce panther speed zones in Lee and Collier counties. Panther speed zones are well-marked, with speed limits reduced at night to 45 mph.
Collier County has four panther speed zones: two on State Road 29 and two on U.S. 41, including the newly posted zone through Collier-Seminole State Park.
In Lee County, there are three panther speed zones: one each on Corkscrew Road, Daniels Road Extension and Alico Road.
Though Florida has experienced a significant increase in panther numbers, up from an estimated 30 animals 20 years ago to about 100 today, Darrell Land, FWC biologist and panther team leader, cautions that the species is far from recovered.