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1st Florida panther death recorded in Hillsborough County in nearly 2 decades, officials say

It’s the 26th panther death statewide this year, and the first in Hillsborough County since 2003.
The 26th Florida panther death of 2022 was confirmed in Hillsborough County on Thursday, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The agency estimates between 120 and 230 of the endangered animals remain in the wild.
The 26th Florida panther death of 2022 was confirmed in Hillsborough County on Thursday, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The agency estimates between 120 and 230 of the endangered animals remain in the wild. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Tampa Bay Times (2013) ]
Published Dec. 5, 2022|Updated Dec. 7, 2022

Wildlife officials believe a rare 2-year-old Florida panther was killed by a vehicle collision in Hillsborough County after the animal’s remains were found on the side of a rural road Thursday, according to an announcement Monday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

It’s the first recorded panther death in Hillsborough County in nearly two decades, according to spokesperson Carly Jones. A male panther was killed in 2003 after trying to cross Interstate 4 about 9 miles east of downtown Tampa. At the time, it was the first confirmed panther sighting in Hillsborough County in three decades. A separate panther was killed in neighboring Polk County in 2020, state data shows.

Related: How rare was the car collision that killed a Florida panther in Hillsborough County?

Wildlife officials said Monday the 2-year-old male panther’s remains were discovered on Keysville Road, which is about 4 miles north of Alafia River State Park in eastern Hillsborough County and more than 20 miles directly southeast of downtown Tampa. This marks the 26th panther death of the year statewide, of which 92% are attributed to vehicle collisions.

Though the majority of panthers are found south of Lake Okeechobee, they have been documented as far north as Georgia. The animals are considered endangered and the state estimates between 120 and 230 wild animals remain, according to the Florida wildlife commission.

“Vehicle collisions are the primary cause of death for Florida panthers,” the state wildlife agency said in a statement.

“The (wildlife commission) encourages motorists to slow down and observe all posted speed limits, especially in panther zones, which are in place in several counties across South Florida and coincide with areas where panthers are known to cross. These panther speed zones help ensure the survival of the endangered Florida panther and protect motorists from personal injury.”