Citing a 10 percent increase in kitten survival, Gil McRae, the director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's research institute announced that new estimates put the number of Florida panthers in the wild at somewhere around 180 animals.
Even though they have been on the Federal Endangered Species List since the mid-1960s, the Florida panther almost became extinct in the early 1990s, but a concerted conservation effort by state and federal wildlife officials have turned that death spiral around and studies now show that the population has increased steadily since 1995.
Even though the population is showing signs of improvement, the Florida panther will remain on the Federal Endangered Species List until there are two separate populations of at least 240 lions. To make that happen, the species needs to reestablish itself in additional Southeastern states.
The greatest challenge facing the Florida panther at this time is the need for more space. As the population tries to grow, it comes increasingly in contact with human development; and these interactions unfortunately can be fatal for the cats.
So far this year, 18 Florida panthers have died as a result of being struck by vehicles on Florida roads.