A private landowner discovered a dead Florida panther in Hendry County on Saturday, the 21st recorded panther mortality of the year.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission received a call Saturday morning from the property owners who live near Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest.
FWC investigated and recovered the remains of a male panther estimated between 3 and 4 years old. It had been dead for two to three days.
FWC reported there was no clear cause of death, but the remains have been frozen at the FWC Naples office, and then taken to Gainesville for a necropsy.
Florida panthers have been categorized as an endangered species since 1973.
Of the 21 panthers killed in 2011, seven were struck by vehicles and four died in wildfires. The remains of what would make 22 dead panthers this year was discovered months ago. However, those skeletal remains clearly indicated the panther had died at least a year prior to being found, so is not added to the 2011 mortality figures, explained Darrell Land, an FWC panther team leader of Naples.
“We do not know the year the panther died, but we are certain it was not 2011,” Land said.
There was a time when these 21 deaths would have marked the near end of the species all together. Just about 15 to 20 years ago, there were as few as 30 panthers believed to be living in the wild of South Florida.
“We know that panther numbers have increased rather significantly over the past 15 years,” Land said.
“Today we estimate the population is between 100 to 160 adult panthers. So, the loss of 20 or so panthers is not overly alarming,” he said.
More information about the Florida panther population is available on the FWC-managed website floridapanthernet.org.