The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Saturday that a Florida panther was found dead in Lehigh Acres.
When driving at night, you have to keep your guard up – not just for drivers but for wildlife too. This includes the endangered Florida panther, the habitat of which is spread out across Southwest Florida.
“They would try to dart across the road and so it would take the driver by surprise,” said Meredith Budd, regional policy director with the Florida Wildlife Federation.
The most recent panther death marks the sixth of the year so far, and the third in Lee County. The 7-year-old female cat’s remains were found along the median of SR-82, about a mile southeast of Daniels Parkway.
“Florida panthers are endangered and roadways are significant barriers for them to move; it’s significant barriers for wildlife in general to move. And in addition to the fact that vehicle collisions contribute to one of the leading causes of panther mortality,” Budd said.
She says many panthers call Southwest Florida home. “Historically … their range went all the way up into the southeastern part of the United States. They’ve been extirpated from that range and they’re limited now really to Southwest Florida,” she said.
Because of this, she urges drivers to use caution while driving on our roads.
“When you’re at a roadway that may be right next to panther habitat, you need to be 100% focused, alert, and understand that a panther may be crossing the road at any moment in time.”
Budd says that panthers are more active between dusk and dawn and when there is a change in weather patterns.
FWC and US Fish and Wildlife are working with FDOT and other partner agencies to prevent panther deaths. FDOT is using this website to track wildlife bridge crossings, panther mortality and hotspots for collisions with panthers.