An endangered Florida panther was struck and killed by a vehicle, officials said. It marked the eighth panther to be killed by a car in the state this year — and the 62nd such fatality since 2021, according to statistics kept by state wildlife officials.
The 2-year-old male panther's remains were found Monday along Interstate 75 in Collier County, near the western end of Alligator Alley, officials said.
All eight known panther deaths this year were caused by vehicle collisions, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
According to statistics compiled by the commission, seven of the eight panthers that were fatally struck this year died in Collier County. Three of the panthers were one year old or younger.
Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but their habitat now is mostly confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico.
Hunting decimated the population, and it was one of the first species added to the U.S. endangered species list in 1973, according to the National Wildlife Federation. It is the only subspecies of mountain lion that can still be found in the eastern U.S.
Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.
The NWF says the small panther population is vulnerable to low genetic diversity, mercury pollution and diseases such as feline leukemia. Furthermore, construction causes habitat loss, and roads pose a danger to panthers attempting to cross.
"The subspecies is so critically endangered that it is vulnerable to just about every major threat," the NWF says.
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