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Florida Panthers Face Extinction Threat as Vehicle Collisions Claim Lives

Bella Lopez

Since the start of 2024, there have been three panther deaths, all due to vehicle collisions according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Panther Pulse. Panthers are native to Florida; however, their population is continuously declining, leaving their species on the verge of extinction.

In 2023, a total of 13 Florida panthers died in Southwest Florida, not even a month into the new year and three panthers have died this year according to FWC. Officials from FWC said all three panthers who died in 2024 were found in Lee and Hendry counties. With approximately 120-130 adult panthers left in the population, they need our help now more than ever. So, the real question becomes, how do we combat this issue?

Hunting and vehicle crashes have decimated the panther population. Panthers were one of the first species to be added to the U.S. endangered species list in 1973, according to the National Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Construction causes habitat loss and roads pose a danger to panthers who are attempting to cross. With a lot of construction going on and forests being cleared out for businesses and more roads, it forces the panthers out of their habitats and into ours.

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Specific areas should be designated where development is prohibited, allowing panthers to thrive without human interference. Alternatively, highways could incorporate designed overpasses or underpasses specifically for wildlife, providing safe crossing points. Implementing dedicated wildlife paths can effectively decrease the number of panther-vehicle collisions.

Another issue is dark roads at night. Most roads are pitch black and offer low visibility to see the road in front of you. I think one solution that can combat this issue is to build more streetlights to give drivers a clear view of the road in front of them at night, so panthers aren’t getting hit.

If drivers are able to see the road clearly at night, then hopefully that will allow people to stop their vehicles in time for panthers trying to cross the road and decrease the number of panthers being killed due to vehicle collisions.  

It’s important to pay attention to panther crossing traffic signs when driving at night. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, these traffic signs give drivers the heads up that they need to reduce their speed from 60 mph to 45 mph due to potential panthers that may be in the area. If drivers break the law and are caught, they could face fines of up to $200 or more.

There are different ways that we can get involved in the cause, like educating ourselves on the wildlife species in our area that are threatened and endangered, advocating with family and friends and driving safely. Another way is by making our voices heard by getting involved with local and state elected officials to let leaders know the community values to protect Florida’s wildlife species and ecosystems.

If efforts aren’t taken to reduce the number of panther-related collisions, then there’s a chance the panther population here in Florida could be entirely wiped out.

If you happen to see an injured or dead panther you can report it online or call 888-404-FWCC (3922)

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