In 2017, at least 24 Florida panthers died after being hit by vehicles on the state’s roads – – 83% of the 30 known panther deaths this year, marking a third consecutive dark year for animals protected yet.
Though no one knows exactly how many big cats are still in the state, the population is estimated to be between 120 and 230 according to the most recent estimates. This year’s deaths could represent between 13% and 25% of the entire viable population of the species, according to the same figures set by the Florida Wildlife Commission. Worse still, more than a third of the panthers missing last year were females of reproductive age.
However, the year 2017 is not a record. Difficult to do worse than the 42 deaths recorded in 2015 and 2016. If poaching has stopped, the cars have taken over.
On a positive note, the report estimates that at least 19 panthers were born during the year 2017. Compared to the 14 births observed in 2016 and 15 births recorded in 2015, it’s a slight improvement.
This, however, was not enough to compensate for the losses. The number of deaths and low birth rates over the past three years have undoubtedly reduced the number of surviving panthers in Florida.
“The Florida panther suffers from an idle extinction,” notes Jeff Ruch, executive director of the organization “Protecting Employees Who Protect our Environment”, in a recent public statement. “There is currently no consistent effort to save the Florida Panther, and during Trump’s presidency we are unlikely to see any improvement.” It will therefore rely on the vigilance of drivers. Highways 41, 29 and 75, better known as the Everglades Parkway, are particularly deadly for panthers. If you ever go around, stay tuned!