The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) is one of the rarest large mammals in the U.S. and was one of the first to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1973. Sadly, the species suffered 24 fatalities on Florida’s highways in 2014.
Collisions between wildlife and vehicles can also cause substantial damage to vehicles and injure—or even kill—people. The Insurance Journal reported that more than $4 billion in vehicle damage occurs annually because of deer-vehicle collisions.
For several years, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has been working to reduce Florida panther collisions in order to maintain their viability as a species, as well as improve driver safety.
The main way the FDOT is protecting the species is through modern technology, such as fencing and GPS tracking.
Constructing Fences and Underpasses
FDOT has learned that when fences and crossings are placed in the animals’ fragmented habitats bisected by highways, collisions drop to zero.
Using GPS Tracking Data
Transportation planners are now working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gain information on the animals’ movement that assist in their planning. They are receiving GPS collar data that show the range and corridors of the animals, particularly where they tend to cross highways in their habitats.
Channeling Their Movement
Armed with that information, transportation planners are now designing fencing in central and southwest Florida to channel the panthers to strategically located underpasses that will be constructed to provide for their safe passage. Fencing can stretch in excess of 1,000 feet on either sides of the underpass.
About the author
- Chris is an environmental scientist and GIS analyst. He leads all GIS, environmental permitting, and public involvement efforts. Chris has a wide variety of field experience from marine mapping to wetland delineations. In addition, he also is trained as a photo-interpreter, photogrammetrist, and GPS surveyor.