New technology was unveiled yesterday with hopes of decreasing the number of Florida panthers killed while crossing the state’s fast-moving highways. The Florida Department of Transportation announced the completed installation of a Remote Animal Detection System (RADS) along a deadly stretch of US-41 in the state’s Big Cypress National Preserve near Turner River.
Big Cypress National Preserve is a stronghold for the Florida panther. But the roads that cross the preserve also make it a very dangerous place for the endangered cats, and the Turner River area is especially deadly for breeding females and their kittens. The RADS system uses solar powered sensors to detect when large animals, like panthers, are close to the road. The system then advises drivers to slow down with bright, flashing LED lights on six warning signs placed along the road.
Although the RADS system has been used in western states, primarily for larger mammals such as elk, this is the first time the tool is being used as a way to save panthers. The system will be monitored to determine whether it is effective in detecting big cats and can be used in other parts of the state.
Defenders of Wildlife partnered with the US Fish & Wildlife Service to obtain grant funding for this job. We will continue to work for long-term solutions, such as increased awareness and law enforcement in the panther zones, to make this deadly stretch of road safer for wildlife and people.