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photo courtesy of Mark Lotz FWC

DANGERS OF THE ROAD

 

Roadways all over the world have proven to be dangerous places for both wildlife and people.

 

For a panther, a road has often been nothing more than a pathway to its grave. Our roads remain one of the greatest threats to the Florida panther, and collisions with cars continue to be a leading cause of death.

 

You may question why a panther would need to cross the road? Some of our major roadways cut through prime panther habitat and often slice through a cat’s home range. In the course of daily activities a panther may cross a road to find food, water, a mate, a suitable den site, or protect its territory from a rival panther. It may also run across a road to flee from a threat, such as fire, a bear, dog, or even a human.

 

The fact is, every single panther is important; it contributes to the genetic diversity of this endangered population. A female panther is responsible for bringing the next generation of panthers into the world. If a female dies on the road, or is injured and needs treatment, it means removing her from the population; she may in fact be leaving behind a litter of kits that cannot survive without her, essentially robbing the population of new blood. If a male is injured and has to be removed, he may loose the rights to that territory, and upon his return, end up fighting another panther risking further injury or death. When one panther is hit by a car there could be much more at stake.

 

So can we make an effort to contribute to their lives and not their mortality? Yes we can, the State of Florida is trying but as always there is always more we can do. Wildlife agencies, the Florida department of Transport, conservation groups, private companies and citizens, have come together to save the lives of panthers. Here are some of those roadway projects.

 

Wildlife Underpass
Florida has constructed over 26 underpasses, which allow panthers and other animals to cross under the road. A portion of the road is fenced and in some areas vegetation is used as a barrier to help direct the animal to the underpass. A lot of research went into learning where these cats were crossing, and into the designing and engineering of these structures. Many have cameras to document who is using them.

 

Panther Crossing Sign
A yellow diamond shaped road sign with the silhouette of a panther. This sign tells a driver that panthers cross the road in this area, so be watchful and obey the speed limit. Panthers can be very fast, you may only catch a movement out of the corner of your eye, be ready to slow down or brake safely for a panther on the road.

 

Speed Zone
A speed zone is not giving you permission to speed; it is better referred to as a slow zone. The speed limit is slower at nighttime in these areas for a designated number of miles; the signs will notify you of the speed to be obeyed usually 45mph.

 

RADS
Roadside Animal Detection System. This high tech system is designed to sense a large animal approaching the road and a flashing advisory sign alerts the driver to the animals’ presence. The first one for panthers has been installed in a slow speed zone on U.S.41 in Big Cypress.

 

Digital Billboard

Lamar AD Agency donated space on a digital billboard on US-41 south of Alico rd in Lee county Florida, the billboards message is asking motorists to slow down & watch for endangered Florida panthers.

 

Policing Panther Highways 

Law enforcement officers’ petrol some of these roads at night, making sure drivers are obeying the speed limit. If you get caught speeding you may get a ticket along with an educational pamphlet on wildlife and road safety, or be required to appear in court.

 

Florida has proven it is serious about protecting the panther, lots of sweat & tears, time and money have been pored into some of these projects not just to keep the panther safe, but to keep you safe as well, helping to prevent personal injury and damage to your vehicle. Please support the continuation of such projects for wildlife, and if you get the opportunity to - remember to thank those people involved.

 

For information on panther road mortalities please visit www.PantherNet                      

Roads & Wildlife, Defenders Habitat and Highways Program www.defendersblog.org 

  

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