by Editor on January 30, 2015

An Upswing In The Population Of This Appealing Spotted Cat. Photo: USFWS

An Upswing In The Population Of This Appealing Spotted Cat. Photo: USFWS

Ocelots: Although They’re Still A Rare Cat, The Texas Trend Is Looking Better

Along with its much larger cousin, the jaguar, the ocelot is listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The last remaining U.S. populations of the spotted, bobcat-sized ocelot all inhabit enclaves near the Mexican border in Texas, where the animal holds a spot on that state’s own list of endangered and threatened species.

However, the official estimate of south Texas ocelot numbers recently was elevated from fewer than 50 to fewer than 80 due to sightings by wildlife officials of some younger cats they had not known existed. Officials attribute the increase to some much-needed rains, which have boosted the numbers of birds and rodents that ocelots select as prey animals.

Ocelots have declined during recent decades primarily due to widespread habitat loss attributed to agriculture. In addition, they are often struck by automobiles as they cross highways at night.

In order to help save the ocelot, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service hopes to buy land that can serve as habitat for them. Texas, for its part, plans to install fencing and special wildlife crossings along stretches of highway that ocelots are accustomed to traversing.

The USFWS also hopes to acquire some young, female ocelots from Mexico in order to increase genetic diversity among the population. Although ocelots are under pressure throughout their native range, which stretches from the southwestern U.S. to the rain forests of South America, their populations in Mexico and other countries have been faring better than the ones in the U.S.

As for the jaguar, although from time to time someone spots one close to the Mexican border, the animal likely has been completely extirpated from the U.S. Sightings are attributed to lone individuals—usually males—that have wandered over from Mexico.

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