The Florida Department of Transportation recently announced plans to install wildlife exclusionary fencing and improve wildlife underpasses along a particularly deadly stretch of I-75 in an effort to prevent more panther roadkill deaths.
“It is 10 ft. high chain link fencing that has additional barbed wire on top that is at a 45 degree angle and that is angled away from the road toward the wild side,” said Florida Wildlife Federation spokeswoman Nancy Peyton. “And it is a deterrent to panthers and other wildlife that might be inclined to jump a fence.”
The project comes at the behest of the Federation which commissioned a study earlier this year finding that 14 Florida panthers have been killed by vehicle strikes along that stretch of highway since 2004. The project 18 miles of fencing along the nine miles of Alligator Alley between the Naples toll booth and the Faka Union Canal in Collier County. The stretch of highway in question cuts through prime wildlife habitat with conservation lands to the south and rural lands to the north.
Peyton said the project will also improve safety for drivers and other wildlife as well. “It won’t be just panthers that will benefit from these passages and from the fencing, said Peyton. “It will be black bear. It will be dear. It will be coyotes and bobcats, and smaller animals, mammals and otherwise that would wonder onto the road.”
The project comes at an estimated cost of between $5 and $6 million and is slated to begin in October of 2016. FDOT will also add new guard rails and improve three wildlife underpasses for animals to safely cross the highway. The contract for design and construction of the project is slated to be awarded in June of next year.
Florida panthers have been on the U.S. Endangered Species List for more than four decades. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials estimate between 100 and 160 of the cats remain in the wild.