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A Florida panther is killed in Hillsborough for the first time in decades

Florida-Panther-Poster.jpg
US Fish and Wildlife Service
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Courtesy
An endangered Florida panther has been killed on a roadway in southeast Hillsborough County for the first time since 2003.

The last statewide census showed between 120 and 230 of the endangered species remain.

An endangered Florida panther has been killed on a roadway in southeast Hillsborough County for the first time since 2003.

Many of the other animals are being pushed out of their territory by onrushing development.

The body of the 2-year-old male panther was found Dec. 1 along Keysville Road, near the Polk County line. It was the 26th panther killed so far this year on Florida roadways, and the farthest north.

State wildlife officials say almost all panther deaths are from collisions with cars. Most happen in ranchlands just north of the Everglades.

But Carol Rizkalla, coordinator with the Florida Panther management program, says the males need a lot of territory to roam.

"We know that there are some males that are ranging throughout Central Florida," Rizkalla said. "They appear to be limited by I-4. So anywhere between Lake Okeechobee and I-4, there may be a panther."

Rizkalla says development pressure in their home range north of the Everglades in Southwest Florida could be pushing many of them into more populated areas.

"Males have really large home ranges, and so there really isn't enough territory in southwest Florida alone for all of the males," Rizkalla said. "So it could be that they're getting squeezed out with all of this more recent development that's pushing more panthers north."

Or it could be the population is growing. The last state census showed between 120 to 230 panthers.

Here's a list of the panthers killed so far this year in Florida.

panther range map
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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Confirmed sightings of the Florida panther

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.