NAPLES, Fla. — An endangered Florida panther has died after being struck by a vehicle.
It’s the 18th panther death attributed to deadly collisions, out of 20 total deaths this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The remains of the 2-year-old female panther were found Thursday along Alligator Alley in Collier County, just a few miles east of the toll plaza, wildlife officials said.
Florida panthers once roamed the entire Southeast, but now their habitat mostly is confined to a small region of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. Up to 230 Florida panthers remain in the wild.
Panthers are the larger of the two native species of cats that are found in the Sunshine State. The other is the bobcat.
The panther is the official state animal. The federal government has listed it as endangered for about a half-century.
"The subspecies is so critically endangered that it is vulnerable to just about every major threat," the National Wildlife Federation writes on its website. "Because the population is so small, low genetic diversity is a concern. In addition, construction causes habitat loss, and roads and highways pose a danger to panthers attempting to cross. The cats are also faced with mercury pollution and diseases such as feline leukemia."
The National Wildlife Federation says panthers are solidarity creatures, with the exception of when they are mating or when the mother is raising kittens. Mating season is generally considered November-March. That's when Floridians are more likely to see males looking for females.