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2 endangered panthers found dead on consecutive days in Florida, officials say

Florida panthers develop mysterious disorder
Endangered Florida panthers are struggling to walk, and wildlife officials don't know why 00:43

Two endangered Florida panthers have been struck and killed by vehicles, officials said. Ten panthers have now been killed by cars in the state this year — and 64 have been killed since 2021, according to statistics kept by the state.

A 2-year-old male panther's remains were found Monday near the Spirit-of-the-Wild Wildlife Management Area in Hendry County, and a 3-year-old female panther was found dead a day later near the Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area in Glades County, wildlife officials said.

All 10 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 10 panthers that were fatally struck this year died in Collier County. Three of the panthers were one year old or younger.

Endangered Species Act at 50
This 2017 photo from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service motion-activated camera shows a Florida panther at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. / AP

Last year, 27 panthers were struck and killed by vehicles in Florida — the same number that were killed in 2021.

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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