First 2 Florida panthers killed by vehicles in 2013

Florida panther caught on Florida Fish and Wildlife camera. David Shindle/Special to The Banner

Florida panther caught on Florida Fish and Wildlife camera. David Shindle/Special to The Banner

Florida wildlife biologists have recorded the first two endangered panthers run over by vehicles in Southwest Florida in 2013.

A 7-month-old female panther was found New Year's Day in Hendry County; a second male panther, about 10 months old, was found Thursday on State Road 29 south of Oil Well Road in eastern Collier County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported.

The two roadkill panthers in the first three days of 2013 comes on the heels of a record-setting year for panther deaths reported in 2012. The year's 26 overall deaths beat the previous record of 25 panther deaths in 2009.

Roadkill was to blame for 17 of the deaths, one short of the 2009 record of 18 panthers killed on Florida roads. At least one of the 2012 deaths, though, is unknown and could also be a roadkill, according to the state's death tally.

Scientists estimate that as many as 160 panthers could be living in the wild, up from as few as 30 before Florida relocated female Texas cougars to Southwest Florida to restore the gene pool and bring panthers back from the brink of extinction.

Now, though, a growing population is running out of room, putting the wildcats at greater risk of getting hit by a car or dying in fights over territory.

To report an injured or dead panther, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC on a cellphone. Texts can be sent to Tip@MyFWC.com.

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