Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Florida panther on Hendry County road is 13th killed by vehicles in 2010

JUST IN --  from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission  (web link):

"The remains of FP176, a 4-5 year old male panther, were collected on 17 November 2010 on Keri Rd approximately 660 m (0.41 miles) west of the Ok Slough SF headquarters (Google map link). The cause of death was trauma associated with a vehicle collision. The carcass is at the FWC Naples Field Office and will be sent to the FWC Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville for necropsy. The remains will be archived at the FL Museum of Natural History. This is the18th panther mortality and the 13th road mortality for 2010."

Sierra Club's View
About 100 Florida Panthers survive in the wild – clinging to less than five percent of their historic range.  Their entire remaining habitat is located in a handful of South Florida Counties.   It is the last of the eastern cougars which once roamed across the southern U.S., and is the last species of large cat east of the Mississippi River.

Over the past two decades the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved every development proposal in panther habitat.  The last rejection came in 1993.  More development brings more roads dissecting Florida panther habitat and with those roads -- more cars and trucks.  That results in more panther deaths each year.  In 2009, a record 17 panthers were killed by vehicle collisions.  

What can be done?
  • Limit SprawlFlorida panther habitat has been whittled down to a few counties in south Florida. Plans for expansive development in the rural lands of southwest Florida  such as the enormous Big Cypress shopping mall and housing complex in Collier County – will bring more cars into panther habitat and threaten the small panther population left. 
  • Protect Passage.  Increased fencing and accelerated installation of protective panther “crossings” at strategic panther movement corridors would eliminate much of the killing. 
  • Designate Critical Habitat Protection for the Florida Panther.   Although it has been listed as an endangered species since 1967, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never designated critical habitat for the Florida Panther. Critical habitat is a geographic area necessary to help an endangered species recover its population, and its designation is a critical tool within the Endangered Species Act.  By the Service's refusal to make this designation, only the panther is protected.  But its habitat – the living and breeding space it must have to survive – is not.

The Sierra Club and four other conservation groups, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida,  the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER,) and the Council for Civic Associations, filed a lawsuit on February 18, 2010 in Federal District Court in Fort Myers, Florida against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after it denied the groups' petitions and refused to designate critical habitat.  A favorable decision on this pending legal action would be an important step forward towards protecting the panther’s last remaining habitat, before it is irreversibly lost due to over-development and climate change.   

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Senior Field Organizing Manager - FL & PR