More than twenty panthers were killed last year in Florida – NBC Miami (51)

A total of 27 panthers died in Florida during 2022, 22 of them hit on the roads, a species that is in danger of extinction with an adult population of between 120 and 230 copies throughout the state, authorities reported.

“Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for the Florida panther population,” so drivers should be extra vigilant in areas where there may be wildlife and indicators of its presence, the Commission for the Protection of Panthers warned in a statement. Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC).

While most of Florida’s panthers are found south of Lake Okeechobee, “these large native cats have been documented in the south” of the state.

Female Florida panther being released in a Florida state forest. According to verified data from the FWC, in 2021 27 panthers died and in 2020 some 22 copies.

“As our state has grown, so has our human footprint, with many of our highways passing through panther habitat in south and central Florida,” the FWC noted.

The FWC noted that 16 of the panthers killed in 2022 were female, explaining that hundreds of years of “unregulated hunting and habitat loss” drove the Florida panther population to the brink of extinction.

In fact, in the early 1980s, the wild panther population in Florida was just 20 to 30 roaming the desert south and southwest of the peninsula.

“As population size decreased, so did genetic diversity, leading to a genetic bottleneck as a result of inbreeding,” the agency said.

Genetic diversity is key to a species’ ability to successfully reproduce and maintain population size.

Collier County recorded the highest number of panther deaths in 2022 – with 14 -, of which eleven were hit by vehicles.

According to verified data from the FWC, in 2021 27 panthers also died, while in 2020 22 perished. It is the last subspecies that still survives in the eastern United States.

The big drop in panther numbers occurred before 1950, when it was still legal to hunt panthers. The species was classified as endangered in 1967 and is protected by federal and state laws.

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