February 28, 2006 - An apparent collision with a vehicle on I-75 in Lee
County has claimed the life of another
endangered Florida panther. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists, five panthers have died so far in
collisions on the state’s roadways in 2006. Two others are known to have
succumbed to natural causes.
On Feb. 27, at about 7 a.m., FWC dispatchers received a call from the Lee
County Sheriff’s Office reporting a panther had been struck and killed on
I-75 about one-half mile north of SR 82. FWC law enforcement officers
arrived to find the lifeless body of an uncollared male panther laying in
the median of the interstate. Extensive trauma to the cat’s head, body and
legs was apparent, consistent with a vehicle collision.
The body of the 120-pound panther was taken to the agency’s Naples office
for storage. A necropsy will be performed at the FWC’s Gainesville lab at a
later date by FWC staff veterinarian, Dr. Mark Cunningham. DNA data samples
for will be taken and analyzed for important genetic information. The
animal will be checked for a microchip identifier that may have been
implanted when it was a kitten.
About 150 kittens have been implanted with microchips by panther
biologists. FWC investigators report little physical evidence of vehicle
damage at the scene, and there was no indication anyone was injured as a
result. Drivers are cautioned to keep a sharp lookout and obey all traffic
regulations especially in area of Alligator Alley on U.S. 41 where panther
speed zones are in force. Drivers should be especially cautious at night,
when panthers are most active.
Male panthers are most often the victims of highway accidents. Panther
habitats are generally occupied by a single, dominant male and one or more
females. The dominant male kills, injures or chases out all other males
competing for his breeding territory. Because dominant males already occupy
most breeding territories, lesser males are forced to wander in a vain
effort to find a breeding territory of their own. At times these travels
take them far away from the breeding population centered in Collier, Hendry
and western Miami-Dade counties, through areas of high vehicle traffic in a
fruitless effort to find unspoken-for mates. Typically, panther territories
consist of largely undisturbed tracts between 30 and 100 square miles in
size. Statewide, the panther population is estimated at about 80 animals.
The biggest threats to panthers are loss of habitat and habitat
fragmentation. The Panther Trust Fund provides money for the state’s
panther research project and is entirely supported by the sale of Florida
panther license tags. If you would like more information from the FWC on