The mission of the Southwest Florida Panther Hot Spots is to identify high panther-vehicle collision (PVC) areas so that risk reduction measures may be incorporated into future transportation designs. The Hot Spots map allows planners, transportation agencies, and wildlife agencies to focus on specific locations within a regional landscape, compare the locations to transportation plans and identify projects in which to incorporate wildlife crossing features. Higher success is achieved when agencies and stakeholders are involved early in project planning and development to vet funding and construction options.
The USFWS’s Florida Panther Recovery Implementation Team (PRIT) Transportation Sub-Team developed a method to identify road segments that pose a risk to panthers and a system to track overlapping transportation projects. The Sub-Team used PVC data points recorded by wildlife agencies between 1972 and 2020. The PVC data were exported from Excel to an ArcGIS shapefile. Roadway centerline shapefiles were used to create a 200m buffer around roads. A 500m buffer was applied to the PVC data points and the buffered roads were clipped and joined with the buffered PVC data points. The resulting shapefile contained segments of roadways with PVC’s grouped together when occurring within 500m of other PVCs, or individually when points were beyond 500m of another point. A count field was added to the segments and populated with the number of PVCs occurring within road segments. Color symbology was applied to the count field to indicate a range resulting in 4 categories representing 1-2 collisions (blue); 3-5 collisions (green); 6-8 collisions (orange); and 10-12 collisions (red). In the 2020 update there were 193 Hot Spots representing 351 PVCs. There were 157 blue segments; 28 green; 5 orange and 3 red segments.
The first Hot Spots map was developed in 2016 and is updated annually and made available in both KMZ and shapefile formats for local, state, and federal use. Current and future transportation projects that overlap with identified Hot Spot segments have been identified. Project-specific risk reduction measures, project status and funding options are tracked. As of the 2020 update, Hot Spots have been removed from the map following the addition of wildlife shelves under bridges and wildlife fencing along I-75, and in locations with existing wildlife crossings and fencing such as along SR 29 where no further remedial action is warranted. Four projects were being tracked within red hot spots and three projects were being tracked in orange Hot Spots. Transportation plans are monitored to identify opportunities to reduce Hot Spots.