A necropsy confirms that a Florida panther was struck and killed by a car in Orange County over the weekend.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist retrieved the carcass Sunday night near Christmas, about 20 miles east of Orlando.
Mark Cunningham is a veterinarian with the commission. He says the carcass appears to be that of a young male panther. There was no evidence that the animal was a captive and Cunningham says it did not have a heart defect occasionally seen in Florida panthers.
This marks the 25th Florida panther to die this year in Florida and the 17th killed by a car. In 2011, nine of 24 documented Florida panther deaths were attributed to vehicle collisions.
Wildlife officials say the panther population has grown five-fold since the 1980s, when its numbers dwindled to 20-30 in South Florida. It remains one of the most endangered species on the planet.
The FWC says panthers are mostly located in southwest Florida, but more of them are being seen in central Florida, which means vehicle collisions with them also rise.
In September, the FWC unveiled a plan to document whether panthers are migrating beyond southwest Florida, where they primarily live and breed.