IMMOKALEE (CBS4) – Another one of Florida’s most endangered cats, a Florida panther, has been found dead near a southwest Florida road after apparently being hit by a vehicle.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that the 1-year-old male was found Monday, about 5 miles south of Immokalee in Collier County.
A necropsy will be performed in Gainesville.
So far this year, 19 panthers have been found dead, including four kittens killed in a wildfire in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Seven of the big cats were killed in collisions with vehicles, and four died in fights with other panthers. Three panther deaths are under investigation.
Florida panthers have been listed as an endangered species since 1967. Scientists say roughly 160 remain in the wild. 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.
For more information on the Florida panther, go to www.floridapanthernet.org.
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