A unsettling number of Florida panther deaths this year has conservationists concerned.
As of the end of July, 15 panthers have died -- of those, seven were the result of being hit by vehicles, according to data from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). This is especially alarming since there are only 100 to 160 of the animals left in the state.
At this rate, 2012 could be the deadliest year on record for the Florida panther, the Miami New Times reports, not helped by the fact that Gov. Rick Scott is bringing back a construction plan to build a highway corridor and scaling back on the state's growth management laws that help wildlife.
“Florida panther deaths are most often the result of one of two things: collisions with vehicles or aggression from other panthers,” Kipp Frohlich, head of the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section, said in a previous release. “We can’t control panthers fighting when they are defending their territory; that is a part of nature. But we can do something about human-caused panther mortalities.”
In 2011, there were 24 deaths and 32 live births, according to the FWC, with four deaths the result of a wildfire.
According to the FWC’s Wildlife 2060 report, thanks to humans encroaching on their land, panthers could lose 300,000 acres of roaming land by 2060. This has caused problems for both the panther and humans.
In April, a panther kitten was hit by a vehicle and left to die on the side of the road in Collier County. Nearby, wildlife officials found the body if its dead brother. However, after weeks of rehabilitation, the kitten died, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Also, in January, residents of a Davie neighborhood were petrified as what seemed to be a panther, or possibly a coyote, was roaming around their homes.