22 December 2010 Wildlife Crossing Promises Brighter Future for Florida Panthers Posted by: Caitlin Leutwiler | 9 comments | Share: Stakeholders get their shovels ready at the City Gate groundbreaking Safe passage for panthers In a ceremony this month, a group of landowners, agencies and conservation representatives broke ground on what could be the start of a new future for Florida panthers. The lifeline comes in the form of a wildlife underpass, built to protect the endangered cats and other wildlife crossing the busy road. Florida’s first-ever privately funded wildlife crossing will use fencing and a large culvert to funnel wildlife safely under the road. This stretch of County Road 846, east of Immokalee, has proved particularly deadly for panthers, 10 of which have been killed while crossing it in the past 12 years. This $1.3 million crossing comes as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the City Gate commercial project near I-75 and CR951. The HCP is a tool under the federal Endangered Species Act aimed at a more sustainable and comprehensive approach to balancing development and protection of habitat for imperiled wildlife such as panthers. A good omen: these panther tracks were found at site of the new crossing! Too late for some Construction can’t begin fast enough – last week, three male panthers were killed by vehicles while trying to cross busy Florida roads. The most recent was a young male of only 8-9 months. “The recent panther tragedies underscore the urgency of projects such as the City Gate underpass,” said Laurie Macdonald, director of Defenders’ Florida program who attended the groundbreaking earlier this month. “It is critical to provide for safe passage of panthers across dangerous roads. We are working to get additional wildlife crossings installed – in addition to conserving quality habitat – in hopes of increasing this unique animal’s chance of survival.” This is the 21st panther death of the year. With only days left before 2010 draws to a close, the amount of panther deaths caused by vehicles – 16 so far – rapidly approaches last year’s record of 17 road mortalities. Wildlife crossings could be the key to dramatically reducing these numbers and creating a safer future for the endangered cats. Learn more: Defenders is part of the Florida Panther Protection Program, a coalition committed to setting the endangered cat on a road to recovery. See Defenders’ top 10 tips to help you avoid and prevent collisions with wildlife. 9 Responses to “Wildlife Crossing Promises Brighter Future for Florida Panthers” Val December 24th, 2010 thanks for helping save more florida panthers! Adrienne Camfield January 13th, 2011 They need to show the crossing so we can see what it looks like. Caitlin Leutwiler January 13th, 2011 Hi Adrienne! Since developers just broke ground, the crossing has yet to be built. But as soon as its up (down?) and running we’ll post a follow-up – stay tuned! In the meantime, you can get an idea of how panthers will use the underpass here: http://www.naplesnews.com/photos/galleries/2011/jan/13/florida-panther-underpass-photo-sequence-lee/ Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in How Should We Honor Earth Day? America has many worldwide firsts in conservation: we were the first nation to establish a national park, the first to create a national wildlife refuge, the first to approve a law protecting endangered species and the first to create a national day dedicated to conservation, Earth Day. But today, we are experiencing another period of crisis in America’s commitment to conservation. When did conservation become a polarizing political issue, when it has been, for the past century, a defining characteristic of American values and the American spirit? Ecological Insults and Injuries Revealed Four Years after Deepwater Horizon Four years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we’re beginning to see the full scope of how this ecological disaster is impacting our wildlife on land, air and sea. Wolf Weekly Wrap- Up California wavering on protection for gray wolves under state law; Defenders of Wildlife featured on the HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell show tonight; A close up look at the science: wolf breeding pairs in Idaho; bad bills for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona.