IMMOKALEE (CBS4) — Another one of Florida’s most endangered cats, a Florida panther, was struck and killed by a vehicle in southwest Florida.
The driver reported the Monday night incident to authorities. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was the eighth panther killed by a vehicle this year, compared to 16 in 2010. The panther was a 3- to-4-year-old female without a tracking collar.
Wildlife officials say the driver saw two panthers crossing the road. He missed the first one, but said he couldn’t avoid the second.
Overall, this was the 23rd documented panther mortality in 2011.
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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