Wildlife crossing closer to happening, thanks to Collier commissioners

SH10I125PANTHERS Sept. 23, 2010 -- A male Florida panther treed in a live oak by specially trained dogs watches his captors as they wait for a tranquilizer dart to take effect. Tracking teams led by Texas wildlife biologist Roy McBride have been capturing panthers in Florida's remote wild lands since 1973 to take biological samples and fit the animals with radio collars as part of a restoration effort. (SHNS photo courtesy Copyright Science)

SH10I125PANTHERS Sept. 23, 2010 -- A male Florida panther treed in a live oak by specially trained dogs watches his captors as they wait for a tranquilizer dart to take effect. Tracking teams led by Texas wildlife biologist Roy McBride have been capturing panthers in Florida's remote wild lands since 1973 to take biological samples and fit the animals with radio collars as part of a restoration effort. (SHNS photo courtesy Copyright Science)

An experimental wildlife crossing is a step closer to being built on Immokalee Road after a vote by Collier County commissioners.

Commissioners gave county road planners the go-ahead Tuesday to sign an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to be reimbursed up to $950,000 for the crossing.

The crossing is considered experimental because it would lower the height of the animal underpass from 8 feet to 6 feet, saving money. The idea is to make it easier to build more underpasses.

The crossing is proposed for a stretch of Immokalee Road, about 2.5 miles east of Oil Well Grade Road, that studies have identified as a hot spot for wildlife, including the endangered Florida panther.

Collier County has not agreed to put any of its own money into the project. That means that if proposals to build the project come back higher than $950,000, the county would have to find more money from other, so far unidentified, sources.

The agreement with the DOT requires the county to award a contract by next June and to finish construction by July 2012.

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