Sarasota, Florida -- The death toll of Florida panthers population is rising. In fact, Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says two panthers were killed this New Year's Eve bringing the year's total to 33, a record high.
Biologists say panthers are on the move looking for new homes and are starting to show up in the Bay area.
Biologists in part blame developers for this year's record high death rate of Florida panthers and panther attacks on livestock and pets.
"They are losing their critical habitat in South Florida ... more development, more people more subdivisions," said Debbie Blanco, environmental specialist at Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County.
Subdivisions have gone up near the Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County and more are planned. Blanco says there have been two panther sightings at the Carlton Reserve in the last month. A county employee spotted a panther over the Thanksgiving weekend about 5 miles east of the public picnic area.
Blanco says a retired county employee spotted the second panther two weeks ago in the center of the park.
Blanco says, "Cat sitting in the middle of the road he stood up leaped across the ditch into the wetlands and he saw his long body and long tail."
Blanco says 8 cameras have been set up trough out the park to catch a picture similar to the ones taken of a panther spotted in the Duette area of East Manatee County last summer.
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"They need a lot of space to roam," says Blanco.
About 200 square miles for a male panther, and it's space Blanco says is getting harder for cats to find.
"More of that development pushing them out of south Florida to other areas of Florida looking for more territory that is undeveloped habitat," said Blanco.
FWC reports 25 of 33 panthers have been struck and killed by cars.
Blanco says, "We don't have enough underpasses or overpasses for them to safely cross the highway."
Once nearly extinct, the Florida panther's population is up to about 180 but more of the animals means more chance for human encounters. Panther attacks of livestock and pets are at 32 this year with 50 animals killed. But are people in danger?
"There's been no documented Florida panther attack on a person," says Blanco. She adds, "They're very shy. The likelihood of you coming within 100 yards of a Florida panther is very slim."
Through public education, and giving panthers some room, biologists say panthers and humans can share the same space.
Blanco says, "It's doable we can co-exist."
To help track panthers' movement, FWC asks anyone who sees one to document the sighting on their website for panther sightings. Click here to report panther sightings.
Biologists need either a photo of a panther, of their tracks or plaster cast of the tracks to officially document a panther sighting.