Date: September 30, 2013
Contact: Nancy Brown, Public Outreach Specialist, 512-339-9432Effective Tuesday, October 15, 2013, the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) will close the 15-mile Bayside Wildlife Drive (Drive) to private vehicles to protect one of two known breeding populations of ocelot in the United States. On this same date, the refuge will begin closing the Visitor Center two days a week due to reductions in staffing. Ocelots are small, wild cats whose former range extended into Arkansas and Louisiana but today the ocelot population in the United States has been reduced to approximately 50 cats. Recent data from GPS tracking devices verifies that the core population of the Refuge cats resides within habitat in close proximity to the Drive, an auto-tour loop. Ocelots frequently cross several sections of the Drive during the day and at night. As recently as three years ago, a young, lactating female ocelot was killed by a car on the Drive, and her kittens were never located. She was the second known ocelot to die as a result of being hit by a car on the Refuge. Concern for ocelots, an endangered species, combined with reduced management resources, is the reason the refuge is closing the Drive to personal vehicles. Going forward, the public will have access to the Drive through Refuge-guided tours, similar to what is currently offered. Open-air tram or shuttle bus tours will be offered five days a week and will be scheduled monthly according to seasonal visitation and volunteer availability. The public can continue to hike or ride their bicycles on the Drive during daylight hours. The current fee schedule for the tours will remain.Simultaneously, a decrease in Refuge staffing has made it difficult to operate the Visitor Center seven days a week and still meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s operating standards. As a result, the Refuge is closing the Visitor Center on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the days of lowest visitation. Visitors can still pick up maps and helpful information, as well as pay entrance fees, at a self-check-in kiosk. On closed days, guided tours of the Drive will not be available. The Refuge has approximately 50 miles of walking trails and an overlook, all of which will remain open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. To learn more, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/Laguna_Atascosa.The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.- http://www.southwest.fws.gov -
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The refuge’s location and habitat make it a haven for butterflies and moths -- and those who enjoy seeing them! October and November offer the best times to enjoy the refuge’s butterflies, a documented 130 species.