Published: Nov 21, 2012 7:09 AM EST

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - State wildlife officials are asking drivers to slow down when passing through panther country. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says motorists should look out for the large cats. They estimate that between 15 of the 23 documented panther deaths so far this year have been because of car collisions. Last year, it was nine of 24 documented deaths. Darrell Land is the Panther Team Leader for the commission. He says drivers that slow down can help "make a difference in the conservation of this endangered species." According to the commission, the Florida panther population has grown five-fold since the 1980s. Today, there are between 100 to 160 adult and sub-adult panthers. Wildlife officials also warn that population increase means also means there's a greater chance for vehicle collisions.