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Florida panthers

  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.

Wikipedia Commons

If there's one critter considered to be one of the emblems of Florida - besides the manatee, of course - and never mind the mouse - it's the Florida panther.

The felines once prowled the entire Southeast, but relentless hunting thinned the herd to a mere 30 animals by the 1960's. Protections were put in place, and their recovery has been successful enough that there have been a growing number of complaints among ranchers about panther attacks on cattle and other domesticated animals.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner is seeking a permit that would give her and other landowners legal coverage if they were to kill or harass endangered animals while developing thousands of acres in eastern Collier County.

The land includes habitat for the Florida panther. The commission helps oversee the species’ rebound.

This comes as the agency rethinks its role in the panther’s recovery plan. Some environmental organizations worry about the state’s timing.

There are several weeks left in this year and Florida has already tied its all-time record of panthers killed by cars. Nineteen endangered Florida panthers have died after being struck by vehicles this year.

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo

He's such a baby that his kitty eyes are still blue. And there's no word on what his name is, but the folks at Lowry Park Zoo are panther specialists, so they will care for this little guy around the clock until he can eat solids like the meat such big cats are used to. 

This panther kitten is just 4-weeks-old and now tips the scales at 4.1 pounds. When he's big and strong enough, he will be released into Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where he will live, according to the zoo.  

Larry Richardson / fws.gov

When the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly turned over its authority to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last year, Florida became the only state with the power to green-light activities that harm its most vulnerable species without federal review.