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Panther deaths in 2018 match 2017, but still lower than 2 years ago

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jan 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 19:06:03-05

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Wildlife crossings may be helping to keep Florida panthers from being hit by cars. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, thirty of the endangered big cats died in 2018, the same number from 2017. But that's down from forty-two in both 2015 and 2016.

Zachary Burch, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said that fencing along busy roads such as I-75, State Route 29 and State Route 80 is helping to funnel animals like panthers, bears and alligators into using wildlife crossings beneath those roads.

"That's not to say that the job is done, because obviously we're still seeing panther deaths on wither local roads or even on some of the state roads as well," Burch said. "But I think it's encouraging to see that there is an improvement on those roads where we have made those efforts."

Amber Crooks of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said that Florida's panther population is estimated at two hundred and thirty at the most.

"There are many more areas that need panther structures or crossings, so the Conservancy, along with our partners like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are trying to get crossings in those key locations," she said.