A female panther that was hit by a car early Tuesday in Collier County is recovering and expected to live, authorities said.
The three midterm kittens she carried, however, did not survive the trauma.
Authorities were alerted at about 2 a.m. Tuesday about the panther, which they believe was struck sometime overnight on State Road 29 near Immokalee. Panthers are known to be active between dusk and dawn.
A motorist spotted the injured animal on the side of the road and called 911. The car that hit the animal was not found.
Within a half hour, biologists, veterinarians and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers were on scene.
The panther was rushed to the Golden Gate Animal Clinic in Naples, then to the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville after being stabilized.
Florida has worked for years to encourage efforts to increase the panther population.
At one point, in the 1980s, the population dipped to only 20 or 30 panthers. Experts now believe there could be as many as 100.
"The irony of this is the more successful we are, the more they are going to come into contact with people," wildlife commission spokeswoman Patricia Behnke said. "People just need to be really vigilant."
Fourteen panthers have been killed on Florida roads this year, according to the wildlife commission. Many of them were struck in the area where Tuesday's accident took place.
The female panther will be taken to White Oak Plantation, a private facility in North Florida, to recuperate before being released back into the wild.