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19th panther fatality of the year reported, Florida 9/12

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:16 pm    Post subject: 19th panther fatality of the year reported, Florida 9/12 Reply with quote

19th panther fatality of the year reported
By Daily News staff

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A 2-year-old Florida panther was struck and killed Wednesday on Alligator Alley just east of the State Road 29 exit, state wildlife officials said.

It is the first time a panther has been hit on that portion of Interstate 75 since the late 1980s, when tall chain-link fences were built on both sides of the road, said Mark Lotz, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The male pantherís death is the 15th this year as a result of a vehicle collision, the most ever in a year by far. The previous high was 11, set last year. A total of 19 panthers have been killed overall this year.

FWC officials discovered the dead panther about 1.5 miles east of S.R. 29 on a stretch of I-75 bordered on both sides by Big Cypress National Preserve. Because of the parkís relatively high concentration of big cats, transportation officials agreed in the 1980s to build fences on both sides of the highway and install several wildlife underpasses when it was widened to four lanes.

With an estimated population of 80-100, Florida panthers are among the most endangered animals on the planet. Vehicles are the No. 1 known culprit of panther fatalities.

A few panthers have been hit on Alligator Alley in recent years, including one in April, just east of the toll plaza, where a cattle fence affords the only protection. Earlier this year, another panther was killed on S.R. 29 inside fencing similar to I-75ís. The fencing along S.R. 29, however, is not continuous.

Lotz and other biologists suspect the panther killed Wednesday got inside the fencing at the S.R. 29 interchange and walked the 1.5 miles along the south side of the road before he got flattened. Fishermen have cut holes in the fencing at wildlife underpasses, but the catís body wasnít found near an underpass, Lotz added.

The body is being kept in a freezer at FWCís Naples office and will be taken to Gainesville on Friday for a necropsy.
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