Panther killed in three-vehicle crash on I-75

A Florida panther was killed during an early morning crash on Interstate 75 involving three vehicles. It was the first reported death for the species in Southwest Florida this year.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the crash took place near mile marker 111 — the Immokalee Road exit — at about 12:30 a.m. There were minor injuries to those involved, a dispatcher said.

The panther was a 2- or 3-year-old male, said Darrell Land, panther team leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It weighed between 100 and 120 pounds, he said.

Land said vehicle crashes are one of the top threats to the roughly 100 to 160 adult panthers roaming Southwest Florida.

“The number one cause of death is fights between panthers,” he said. “But we recover more dead panthers as a result of the collisions because they’re more visible.”

An end-of-the-year report for 2013′s panther deaths will be released next week. Land said 20 dead panthers were found last year.