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Panthers are protected, but how about its habitat?

Panthers are protected, but how about its habitat?

By Julie Salomone. CREATED Jan 18, 2012

NAPLES- An alarming start to the year when it comes to Florida panther deaths. Already, nearly 3 panthers have been killed and now one conservationist is pushing for protection of panther habitats, but is the proposal realistic?

Wildlife fills the Everglades, but through parts of it runs a busy road. Signs like this one on U.S. 41 warn drives, you are in panther territory. Last year, nearly 24 panthers were killed. More than a third of those were hit by cars.

"The panthers are not squirrels. A male panther needs up to 200 square miles for a home range.
A female panther needs 80 square miles," said

The Executive Director of the South Florida Wildlands Association doesn't want to see anymore development in prime panther habitat.

"I think the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that we lose about one percent of the panther's habitat a year."

He wants to see 2 things happen.

"The federal government can purchase those lands or can pay for a conservation easement on those lands and that would create and expand Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge."

But is that a realistic request? I took that question to Florida Senator Bill Nelson.

"We are working on panther habitat as we speak. The announcement this morning was 150,000 acres of a conservation area that will be in panther habitat which is next to Alligator Alley. You have got a corridor all the way north almost to Disney Wilderness Preserve," said Senator Nelson.

State wildlife officials say the number of Florida Panthers born last year offsets the number of documented panther deaths.

Julie Salomone
Fox 4