Florida panthers once prowled and flourished in America's southeastern woodlands and swamps, but today fewer than 160 of these majestic cats remain in a tiny remnant of their historic range. And that habitat is shrinking every day -- gobbled up by subdivisions and commercial development.
We're in a race against time. As panther habitat becomes more and more fragmented, it will be increasingly difficult for these creatures to stay out of harm's way.
Please ask Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe to make protecting and recovering critically endangered Florida panthers a top priority!
I am writing to urge you to take all necessary steps to conserve the critically endangered Florida panther. Specifically, we urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make securing habitat and travel corridors for the Florida panther one of its highest priorities.
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With an estimated 100-160 remaining, the Florida panther is one of the most endangered mammals in the U.S. and we have a limited window of time to protect and restore undeveloped tracts of land and provide habitat linkages before they are lost.
Plans are in the works to build new subdivisions and industrial complexes and several new highways in the rural regions of the state. These highways would run through panther habitat and public conservation lands and lead to even more development and fragmentation.
Highway deaths are already the number one human cause of mortality for these endangered animals. Increasing fragmentation of panther's habitat would lead to even more deaths on roads. Last year, a record 19 panthers were struck and killed by motorists, more than in any other year. Scientists believe that loss of panthers on roads is preventing the cats from expanding their breeding range northward.
The FWS can make sure that enough contiguous habitat remains for these majestic cats to survive and return northward into their historic range. We urge you to make that a top priority in the coming year.
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