New Speed Zone on Hendry Highway Will Help Protect Florida Panther
A new speed zone in Hendry County will make crossing the road safer for panthers and other wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) worked with the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners and partners such as Defenders of Wildlife to create the new zones on Keri Road, also known as CR 832.
Keri Road is a rural road that passes through the Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. Since 1996, the FWC has documented nine panthers that were killed by vehicle collisions along this road. Florida’s panther population today is an estimated 100 to 160 adults.
The new speed zone, which will reduce the nighttime speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph, will go into effect this week. The zone would extend approximately 5.25 miles from the east-west boundary of Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest, from Wild Cow Grade to Railroad Grade.
“Vehicle collisions are one of the leading causes of death for Florida panthers,” said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader. “Speed zones such as this can make a real difference in the conservation of this endangered species. Reducing your speed reduces your stopping distance. If an animal is on the road, potential collisions can be avoided.”
Vehicle collisions are the greatest source of human-caused mortality to this federally endangered species. Already, in 2012, there have been three documented deaths of panthers hit by vehicles. Among the 24 documented panther deaths in 2011, nine, or more than a third, were due to collisions with vehicles.
“Traveling at 45 mph instead of 55 mph adds about one minute to the five-mile drive,” said Land. “We’re just asking for a minute of someone’s time for the Florida panther.”
Motorists should be aware that violators may receive fines exceeding $200 for their first offense of exceeding the slow speed zone, and any violation of more than 29 mph over the posted limit may result in a mandatory court appearance.
The FWC encourages people to report sightings of an injured or dead panther by calling the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. Another option is texting Tip@MyFWC.com (standard usage fees may apply).