By Naples Daily News staff report
NAPLES — Florida panthers reached a grim milestone this morning when state wildlife officials found the 15th wildcat killed by a vehicle collision in 2009.
With the discovery on the Collier County side of Corkscrew Road, this year tied the 2007 record for the number of the endangered panthers killed by vehicles, state figures show.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials reported this afternoon that they found the panther by the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed, or CREW, lands about 14 miles east of Interstate 75.
The male panther was estimated to be three years old and weighed 148 pounds. It did not have a radio-tracking collar or microchip identification, the FWC reported.
In all, 21 wild panthers have died in 2009, including three panthers killed in fights with other panthers, two killed by unknown causes, one found shot to death in Hendry County and one death under investigation.
The panther population has grown to more than 100 cats since a genetic reintroduction project in 1995.