Published: Jan 02, 2014 1:02 PM EST
Updated: Jan 02, 2014 5:05 PM EST

NAPLES, Fla. - An endangered Florida panther has been killed in a three-car crash in southwest Florida.
    
It's the first recorded panther death of the year.

Because of an unusual white marking on this panther’s left ear, biologists believe that the panther found dead is the same panther that had been seen lingering in yards around this neighborhood.

The FWC panther team, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, had been closely monitoring this area since late November, as part of an ongoing effort to relocate this panther to a more suitable, less urban habitat.

Wildlife officials say collisions with vehicles pose a significant threat to the rare cats. Roughly 100 to 160 adult panthers remain in the wild.
    
Darrell Land of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the panther fatally struck by a vehicle Thursday along Interstate 75 in Collier County was a young male that weighed up to 120 pounds.
    
Florida Highway Patrol officials say minor injuries were reported after the crash.
    
Land says 20 panther deaths were recorded last year. Most of the panther deaths recorded in recent years are caused by collisions with vehicles.