POSTED: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 12:07pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 12:07pm
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TX (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — A male ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and Los Fresnos, Texas, on November 7, 2013. Found on the side of the road, an initial necropsy found the wild cat’s injuries to be consistent with a vehicular collision. The cat was discovered the following morning by a member of the public who reported the incident to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The ocelot was one of 14 being monitored by the Service and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
The cat had been captured by Refuge biologists and fitted with a collar that includes a GPS tracking device. The collar worn by the cat collected data via satellite that provided information several times a day on its location. Data collected from this cat and others let biologists know where the cats live, rest and travel, important information that helps determine management decisions and efforts to protect the cats.
Ocelots are a federally listed endangered species whose range in the U.S. used to extend from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana but is now reduced to less than 50 animals, all of which are found in South Texas. Though loss of habitat is the single greatest threat to the cats, an estimated 40 percent of ocelots from Laguna Atascosa NWR that have been studied over a 30-year period have died as a result of being hit by a car.
The data collected from this ocelot’s radio collar indicate he covered an extensive range in Cameron County. Male ocelots will travel significant distances. Not only are they in search of females, their established territories can include several square miles, which require them to cross many roadways.
“It’s tragic, really,” said Laguna Atascosa NWR Manager, Boyd Blihovde. “Ocelots are so beautiful and so rare, and to lose such a high percentage of these animals to vehicular collision just seems senseless.”
In an effort to protect ocelots, the Laguna Atascosa NWR recently closed the refuge’s 15-mile Bayside Wildlife Drive loop to private vehicles. Though the Bayside Drive remains open during daylight hours for bicycles and NWR-sponsored tours, it was closed to vehicles to protect ocelots in the area, one of two known breeding populations in the United States.
Since 2005, the Service has been working with the Texas Department of Transportation to consider alternatives and wildlife crossings to get wildlife safely across highways in this area and elsewhere in South Texas. This is the second documented ocelot to be killed on State Highway 100 since 2010.
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service