Working Together to Address Panther-Vehicle Collisions
In 2020, 19 endangered Florida panthers were struck and killed by vehicles. The latest estimates show only 120–230 panthers remain in the wild, and roadkill deaths are the highest cause of known mortalities.
Since 2018, Amber Crooks, Environmental Policy Manager here at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, has served as chair to a leading a group of experts whose goal is to minimize the threat of vehicle strikes on the endangered Florida panther.
The Panther Recovery Implementation Team Transportation Subteam, whose representatives were appointed by the Regional Director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, includes the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Wildlife Federation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Central Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, and Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The advisory group’s charge is to develop opportunities to assure a safe, viable habitat network for Florida panthers across the landscape, and to identify solutions to minimize harmful impact of vehicle travel.
The Transportation Subteam has recently completed two studies that the Conservancy believes will be important tools in achieving the mission of reducing roadkills and helping to ensure that Florida panthers can move north into habitat in Central and North Florida. These reports include “Southwest Florida Road Hot Spots 2.0” report, and a new report identifying “Wildlife Permeability Along Interstate 4.”
The former, which models panther-vehicle collision data to determine where the most severe panther roadkill locations are, shows several roadways in southwest Florida are very deadly for the panther.
As Florida panther recovery will require additional populations of the cat, linkages from south Florida to habitat in central and north Florida are critical. The Subteam identified where the remaining areas for permeability across one of the state’s busiest interstates –Interstate I-4- remain. The report found that the remaining opportunities to secure linkages and safe passages under this busy roadway are limited.
Both of these reports can provide road planners, government agencies, and citizens additional tools and science-based information needed to further protect the endangered Florida panther.
The Conservancy is honored to be on the Subteam that is helping to address one of the major issues restricting panther recovery.
The Subteam’s meeting information, which are ongoing and open to the public, as well as finalized reports can be found here: https://www.fws.gov/verobeach/FloridaPantherRITTransportation.html.
To learn more about the Conservancy and its efforts to protect Southwest Florida’s unique natural environment and quality of life, visit www.conservancy.org.