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Endangered Florida Panther Struck, Killed On US 41

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(Source: AP) A wild Florida panther wearing a radio tracking collar.

(Source: AP) A wild Florida panther wearing a radio tracking collar.

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NAPLES (CBS4) – Another one of Florida’s most endangered cats, a Florida panther, has been found dead in Southwest Florida.

Authorities say the panther’s body was found about 11:30 p.m. Saturday on U.S. 41 near the Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County.

This was the sixth panther struck and killed by a vehicle this year and the 12th panther reported dead in 2011.

A necropsy will be performed and the panther’s remains will be archived at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Florida panthers have been listed as an endangered species since 1967. Biologists estimate the panther population in Florida to be between 100 and 120. They are found in swamplands such as Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

The FWC asks drivers to obey posted speed limits and watch for panthers crossing roads at dusk and later.

Panthers tend to be more active during the hours between dusk and dawn, when most automobile strikes occur.

FWC biologists say panthers often make a sudden dash as a car approaches, limiting the ability to avoid an accident, especially when drivers are traveling at higher speeds.

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 a zone that runs through Collier-Seminole State Park. In Lee County, there are three panther speed zones.

Motorists who violate panther speed zones often receive fines exceeding $200 for their first offense. There is a mandatory court appearance for any violation of more than 29 mph over the posted limit.

For more information on the Florida panther, go to www.floridapanthernet.org.

To report dead or injured panthers, call the Wildlife  Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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