The 'Protect the Panther' license plate will soon have a new design featuring a photograph of a now famous female panther and her kitten.
The adult female panther pictured on the plate is well known because she is the first female documented north of the Caloosahatchee River since 1973. She is also the first female documented to have had kittens north of the river in more than 40 years.
For many years, the Caloosahatchee River appeared to be a major obstacle to northward movement of female panthers and the natural expansion of the population.
Florida panthers are native to Florida and most are found south of Lake Okeechobee. Currently, there are approximately 120-230 adult panthers in the population. They are also listed as an Endangered Species.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked with photographer Carlton Ward and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation to design the new plate, which is currently undergoing final preparation.
Once vetted by the Florida Highway Patrol, the plate should be available later this year for purchase by visitingthe Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or by visiting your local tax collector'soffice.
Fees from the Protect the Panther license plate go directly into the Florida Panther Research and Management Trust Fund. The trust fund is the key source of funding for the state's panther-related research, rescue and conservation activities.
Through effective research and management, the FWC and conservation partners have made significant progress toward recovery of the endangered Florida panther.
Over the past three decades, the trust fund has paid almost entirely for all aspects of the FWC’s panther work and the program relies upon sales of the license plate to continue these conservation efforts.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also mentioned other ways that Southwest Florida residents can help with the panther recovery efforts :
In addition to purchasing a Protect the Panther License Plate, motorists can help by observing all posted speed limits, especially in panther zones, which are in place in several counties across south Florida and coincide with areas where panthers are known to cross. These panther speed zones help ensure the survival of the endangered Florida panther and protect motorists from personal injury.