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First endangered Florida panther death of 2024 reported after 13 killed last year

Florida panthers seen with health disorder
Panthers with mysterious health disorder catch Florida officials' attention 01:33

Wildlife officials have reported the first endangered Florida panther death of 2024.

The 1-year-old male was found dead Tuesday from an apparent vehicle strike on a rural road north of LaBelle in Hendry County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

A total of 13 Florida panthers were reported killed in 2023, with all of them being from vehicle strikes. Eight of those animals were killed in Collier County and three were found dead in Hendry County. The two others were killed in Glades County.

In 2022, 27 panthers were struck and killed by vehicles in Florida — the same number that were found dead in 2021.

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

Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast. But now their habitat 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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