A Talk on the Wild Side.
On January 25, a remote camera captured the first-ever ocelot using an ocelot underpass in the United States, a tribute to the long-term planning, hard work and scientific research of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) in the name of ocelot roadway safety.
TXDOT installed the underpass the ocelot used, along FM106, a road that runs through and adjacent to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, home to one of only two populations of ocelots in the United States.
OM331, a 5-year-old male ocelot, crossed beneath the FM106 roadway, perhaps starting the dispersal process or maybe just exploring his range’s boundaries. Photographed approaching the same underpass on January 17, he took more than a week to actually use the underpass to travel to the other side of the road -- without ever needing to cross the road surface! Given the high risk of vehicle-collisions to ocelots that travel onto roadways, the use of underpasses and other crossing structures to keep ocelots off of roadways is crucial to reducing ocelot mortalities caused by vehicles and supporting ocelot conservation in South Texas.
In 2013, the two agencies came together to develop plans to build eight underpasses on FM 106 during a roadway rehabilitation project. Construction started in November of 2015 and underpasses were completed mid-summer 2019. These underpasses have been monitored using remote cameras during the project by USFWS and TXDOT. Many South Texas species -- alligators, armadillos, bobcats, coyotes, javelina, long-tailed weasels, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and tortoises to name a few -- have made great use of the underpasses.
TXDOT and USFWS look forward to continuing to improve the safety of motorists and wildlife by keeping wildlife safely off roads.