Orlando Sentinel

Vehicles strike, kill two panthers in accidents.

- By Richard Tribou

A pair of 1-year-old female Florida panthers have died in the past week, both victims of vehicle strikes, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservati­on Commission.

One body of the endangered species was found Saturday in Collier County with another found April 12 off Interstate 75 in Lee County, according to the FWC’s Panther Pulse site.

They are among nine panther deaths from vehicle collisions this year, and 14 panther deaths overall.

Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.

There were 22 panther deaths with 11 tracked panther births in 2020. So far, only three panther births, all in one litter, have been tracked in 2021.

The year 2019 saw 27 deaths and 11 births; 2018 had 30 deaths and nine births.

Florida panthers are a unique subspecies of puma that once had a range throughout the Southeast U.S., but are now mostly found in Southwest Florida. The FWC states there are approximat­ely 120-230 adult Florida panthers left in the wild, which is higher than the estimated 20-30 panthers in the wild in the 1990s.

Their population­s are mostly around Lake Okeechobee, but are still sighted throughout the Florida peninsula and into Georgia.

They are listed as an Endangered Species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Recorded deaths of the species are most often attributed to vehicle strikes, but has also in recent years faced death at the hands of an unknown neurologic­al disorder that affects both panthers and bobcats.

Conservati­on efforts have included state zoological groups attempting to rehabilita­te and release the panthers back into the wild.

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