In response to a study commissioned by Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently announced it will be installing wildlife exclusionary fencing along the nine mile stretch of Alligator Alley from the FakaUnion Canal Bridge to the Naples toll booth.
Since 2004, there have been an alarming 14 Florida panthers killed by collisions with vehicles. This nine mile segment is the deadliest highway for Florida panthers and the only section of Alligator Alley without wildlife exclusionary fencing.
In April 2015 Florida Wildlife Federation, alarmed by the increasing panther death count, commissioned a study by transportation ecologist Dr. Daniel Smith. He recommended fencing the nine miles and improving wildlife movement under the Miller and FakaUnion Canals. Dr. Smith suggested new wildlife underpasses between the Miller Canal Bridge and Naples toll booth.
“Florida Wildlife Federation is very pleased with FDOT’s swift and optimal action to address panther deaths on Alligator Alley,” said Manley Fuller, President of Florida Wildlife Federation.
FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold expressed appreciation to Florida Wildlife Federation “for bringing this concern to our attention” and stated “FDOT supports Florida Panther recovery efforts.”
In addition to the exclusionary fencing, FDOT will reset the existing rubble riprap under the west side of the FakaUnion Canal Bridge and both sides under the Miller Canal Bridge to create a 2ft wide pathway for wildlife use.
“It is important to maintain habitat connectivity for panthers and other wildlife because Picayune Strand State Forest is on the south side and Collier County’s North Belle Meade Natural Resource Protection Area is on the north side of this currently exposed stretch of Alligator Alley I-75,” said Nancy Payton, Southwest Florida Field Representative who spearheaded Florida Wildlife Federation’s successful campaign.
The Florida panther has been on the U.S. Endangered Species List since 1967. They once roamed across the entire southeastern United States. The only breeding population, estimated at 180 animals, is in South Florida.
Collisions with vehicles are the major cause of panther mortality. Twenty-three Florida panthers have been killed this year on Florida’s highways. Where fencing and underpasses are installed, the deaths drop to almost zero.
For details on Dr. Daniel Smith’s report, please contact him directly at 352-213-3833 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Panther photographs and a map showing location of panther deaths on Alligator Alley are available upon request.