Drivers keep killing dozens of panthers in Florida on a yearly basis. Whether the action is intentional or not, they’re putting these big cats on a sure path to extinction.
Just this past Thursday a member of the species was hit by a car and killed in Collier County. If that isolated incident is not alarming enough on its own, statistics have shown that drivers are responsible for the deaths of 17 Florida panthers in the first seven (7) months of this year. What this means is that they’ve already killed 10 percent (10%) of the Florida panther population and the year isn’t even over yet.
These animals are in real danger of going extinct as field experts estimate that there are only somewhere between 100 and 180 Florida panthers left in the world.
The Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission from Florida also has statistics revealing that drivers were responsible for the deaths of 24 Florida panthers last year. They’re single-handedly wiping out about two thirds of the Florida panther population on a yearly basis.
Car collisions are the number one cause of death for these animals and researchers say that the number of deaths caused by them keeps rising each year. It went from being under 5 percent (5%) back in 2008 to reaching almost 25 percent (25%) last years, in 2014.
What’s worse, the Conservation Commission doesn’t seem to care about the animals it swore to protect. The members of the commission are currently considering a proposal that would reduce the protection that Florida panthers benefit from.
It’s worth mentioning that the proposal was put forth by Liesa Priddy, a member who has a cattle ranch located in the heart of panther country. She claims to have lost too many cattle to the panthers, however experts point out that she has at least 400 of them on her farm, more than twice the number of panthers in the entire state.
The memo reads as follows: “Panther populations are straining and currently exceed the tolerance of landowners, residents and recreationists in the region”. It actually asks the commission to reconsider the big cats’ endangered status.
The request is at least surprising, if not ill-intended, as the state does not currently meet the standards specified in the federal Endangered Species Act. The law clearly states that Florida has to have at least three (3) healthy panther populations with 240 members each in order for the government to be able to reconsider the species’ status.
As mentioned above, Florida currently has a single panther population, and the number of its members is estimated to be between 100 and 180.
One working theory is that the Conservation Commission wants to take Florida panthers off of the endangered species list due to the fact that it’s having trouble setting up the other two (2) panther populations required by the law.
As expected, both scientists and the general public have given the commission a great deal of backlash. Tampa Bay Times conducted an interview with Darryl Land, panther biologist, and quoted him saying that “there is no science supporting the statement about ‘exceeding carrying capacity’”.
But despite all of this, Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission believes that the state already has too many panthers, going as far as to suggest that they may have to euthanize some of them. This points at a grim future for the state’s animals.