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Slow Speed Nighttime Panther Zone

Project #: 197235  –   Updated: December 05, 2012

Project Summary

Photo credit for sign photos: Defenders of Wildlife volunteer Eric Myer

"A rural road that bisects the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, Keri Road (pronounced kee-rye) is a documented danger zone for panthers and other wildlife. Nine panthers are known to have been killed by vehicles on CR 832 [by the time of the speed zone's implementation in early 2012], six of which were within the state forest. While the road had a posted speed limit of 55 mph, many drivers exceeded that speed. When the Hendry County Engineering Department recorded vehicle speeds on the road in August 2011, they fou...

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Location (by county):
Hendry County (FL)

Watersheds:
Caloosahatchee

Congressional Districts:
FL District 25

Bird Conservation Regions:
Peninsular Florida

USFWS Regions:
Southeast Region

Project size:
5.34 miles

Public Access

Site Name Publicly Accessible
Slow Speed Nightime Panther Zone Yes

Full Project Description

Photo credit for sign photos: Defenders of Wildlife volunteer Eric Myer

"A rural road that bisects the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, Keri Road (pronounced kee-rye) is a documented danger zone for panthers and other wildlife. Nine panthers are known to have been killed by vehicles on CR 832 [by the time of the speed zone's implementation in early 2012], six of which were within the state forest. While the road had a posted speed limit of 55 mph, many drivers exceeded that speed. When the Hendry County Engineering Department recorded vehicle speeds on the road in August 2011, they found that 85 percent of motorists drove 65-70 mph, despite the legal speed limit of 55 mph.

The new designation will not only allow the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its law enforcement partners to warn drivers and enforce the speed limit in the state forest on Keri Road, but it will help to increase awareness about driving carefully on CR 832 and other rural roads.

Defenders [of Wildlife]’s Laurie Macdonald said, “For years, Keri Road has been a very dangerous roadway for panthers as well as for people. Now, thanks to the support of landowners, natural resource agencies and conservationists, Hendry County has taken an important first step toward improving passage for panthers and other wildlife across this stretch of highway. We are very hopeful that the reduced speed limit will raise awareness about the need to drive carefully and watch out for wildlife.”

Collisions with vehicles is one of the leading causes of death for Florida panthers. In 2009, 17 panthers—a record high—were killed while crossing roads, and in 2010, 16 panthers met a similar fate. For a species whose population is believed to be just 100-160 animals, even the loss of a single cat is significant."

--from Defenders of Widlife's blog post, see link at right

Panther sighting story from Defenders of Wildlife's Florida employee:
"Working in Defenders’ Florida office, panthers tend to be on my mind more often than not. But though I’ve worked over 7 years to help bring the big cat to recovery, I’ve never actually seen one in the wild. Until now.

This Tuesday, I was driving along the Four Sections road in Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. Accompanied by wildlife ecologist and expert wildlife tracker Sue Morse and longtime Defenders supporter Barbara Long, we were coming to the close of a busy few days, having hosted a successful Big Cats of North America presentation and a weekend workshop to train Panther Citizen Assistance Taskforce volunteers to help Defenders respond to reports about panthers. We were driving in the area’s prime panther habitat. It was almost 5pm, the witching hour for animal activity. Lots of deer were out foraging and the three of us had our eyes peeled for movement along the side of the road.

Suddenly, a panther bounded in front of our car. Uncollared, the cat was a beautiful tawny color, probably a female or young male. It wasn’t moving very fast, but its three leaps across the road lasted only seconds— I barely had enough time to shout “Panther!” to my companions before it disappeared from sight. I was speechless, and without the two of them with me, I might have been convinced I made the whole thing up.

Our brief encounter with the cat couldn’t have been more timely. Before our welcome interruption, we’d been on our way to the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners meeting, where Commissioners were voting to designate 5.25 miles of CR 832/Keri Road as a slow speed nighttime panther zone.

Keri Road (pronounced kee-rye) is a rural east-west road that bisects the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. A documented danger zone for panthers and other wildlife, nine panthers are known to have been killed by vehicles on CR 832 since 1996, six of which within the state forest. While the road has a posted speed zone of 55 mph, many drivers exceed that speed. (In fact, when the Hendry County Engineering Department recorded vehicle speeds on the road in August 2011, they found that 85 percent of motorists drove 65-70 mph, despite the posted speed limit of 55 mph.) Securing a nighttime slow zone for the stretch of road is the first of many actions Defenders and a coalition of stakeholders (including local landowners, businesses and residents) have been working on in order to improve passage for panthers and other wildlife across this stretch of highway.

Our panther must have been a good omen, for that night, the Board voted to approve the slow speed zone! The designation will not only allow the state to enforce the speed limit in Okaloacoochee Slough on Keri Road, but it will help to increase awareness about fostering safe passage for panthers and other wildlife. Both steps are key to helping panthers throughout the state continue down the road to recovery, and ensuring my first panther sighting won’t be my last."

Goals and Targets

Primary motivations:

Conservation Mission
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.

Primary goals:

Reduce panther deaths from road accidents.

Targeted habitats were not provided for this project.

Targeted species:

  • Florida Panther Puma concolor coryi

Actions

Project Actions
Other: slow speed zone to help wildlife crossings Show/Hide details

Outcomes

Is the success of this project's actions being monitored?   No/Unknown

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Organization

Hendry County
(Local Government)

Primary Contact

Elizabeth Fleming  (Florida Representative)
Defenders of Wildlife
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Partners

  • Defenders of Wildlife

Project Photos

Panther-walking-towards-camera-295x300_detail

Project Keywords

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