Defenders of Wildlife is working to reduce the number of panthers killed on roads. From wildlife crossings to slow speed zones, there are many ways we can make roads safer for panthers and people alike.
Collision with vehicles is one of the leading causes of death for Florida panthers. In 2014, a record high of 25 panthers were killed while crossing the road. For a species whose population is believed to be just 100-180 adults, even the loss of a single cat is serious.
How We’re Helping
Thanks to Defenders’ efforts, a Roadside Animal Detection System (RADS ) was installed in January 2012 along a deadly stretch of US-41 that crosses the Big Cypress National Preserve and is currently being monitored to determine whether it is effective in detecting big cats. If effective, the technology may be used to protect panthers and other wildlife in additional parts of Florida.
Defenders is also partnering with other organizations on a work group to engage Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) about their Future Highway Corridors Initiative. Conservation and land use planning organizations requested briefings from FDOT about this initiative and specific projects so that we can have early input on specific highway alignments, and urge them to avoid breaking up conservation lands and sensitive ecological systems with new roads.
Three wildlife crossings for bears are being constructed on I-4 in central Florida that will be essential linkages for panthers traversing that dangerous highway that serves as a barrier to wildlife movement (we have long advocated for these crossings).
We have continued to advocate for the construction of additional crossings, including Florida’s first-ever privately funded wildlife crossing that uses fencing and a large culvert to funnel wildlife safely under the road. This stretch of Immokalee Road/CR 846 has proven particularly deadly for panthers—10 have been killed while crossing it in the past 12 years. We supported the construction of two wildlife crossings on Oil Well Road in Camp Keais Strand and a crossing on CR 846 in Camp Keais Strand.
We backed the construction of a bridge extension over the C-1 canal and fencing on SR 80 in the Florida Panther Dispersal Zone to maintain connectivity to the Lone Ranger Forge property on the Caloosahatchee River that was secured in 2012. This area leads to the most important corridor for panthers dispersing out of south Florida. We also helped stop a Hendry County flood control project for the C-1 canal and railroad canal that would have diminished the effectiveness of the SR 80 bridge extension and destroyed and degraded wetlands on the Lone Ranger Forge property, Panther Passage Conservation Bank, Florida Panther Conservation Bank II and several other prospective habitat conservation banks.