Latest Florida panther death ties annual record

Florida panther experts guess that neighborhood dogs probably chased the young, male cat up in a tree Tuesday morning in a Golden Gate Estates neighborhood in Naples. The panther later jumped down on its own.
(FWC photos by Mark Lotz)

Florida panther experts guess that neighborhood dogs probably chased the young, male cat up in a tree Tuesday morning in a Golden Gate Estates neighborhood in Naples. The panther later jumped down on its own. (FWC photos by Mark Lotz)

A dead Florida panther found on an Orange County roadside Sunday night ties the record for most reported deaths of the endangered wildcats set in 2009, state biologists reported Tuesday.

That year 25 panthers were found dead, including 17 roadkills, a record that also is tied by Sunday’s discovery along the Bee Line Expressway west of Orlando.

The panther did not have a tracking collar, and the carcass was too badly damaged to determine either an age or sex, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Biologists suspect the panther is a male, based on its size, but they can’t say for sure until after a necropsy to be conducted at the FWC Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville, the FWC’s panther team leader Darrell Land said.

The location of the roadkill is more evidence that panthers are trying to expand their range out of Southwest Florida, where the panthers’ only known breeding population is running out of room.

"We know panthers get up in that neck of the woods," Land said.

Biologists have evidence only of male panthers roaming north of the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County; finding a female or panther kittens north of the river would mark a milestone for panther recovery.

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