News Release, March 2014


Date: 03/20/14
Contact: Hilary Swarts, Refuge Biologist, 956-748-3607 (work) or 956-245-9445 (cell)

Ocelot Kitten Provides Hope

Images of an ocelot kitten were recently captured by wildlife cameras situated on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in South Texas. The kitten is thought to be a female between three and five months old and appears to be in good condition. The young cat is an addition to the 11 ocelots currently being monitored on the refuge with the help of wildlife cameras and radio-tracking devices.

Ocelots are small, wild cats whose range in the United States used to extend from South Texas into Arkansas and Louisiana but is now reduced to two known populations in South Texas, one of which is found on the Laguna Atascosa NWR. Service biologists estimate there are less than 50 ocelots in the United States and the primary threat they face is habitat loss and fragmentation. Habitat loss has left the cats stranded in small, isolated pockets of native vegetation surrounded by roads, agriculture, and development.

Though loss of habitat is the single greatest threat to the cats, an estimated 40 percent of refuge ocelots that have been studied over the course of 30 years have died as a result of being hit by a car. The cats, males in particular, often must travel significant distances and cross dangerous roadways in search of food, shelter, and mates. As recently as November one of the male ocelots being monitored was struck and killed by a vehicle on Hwy. 100 outside of Los Fresnos, Texas, near the refuge. Concern prompted the Service to close the refuge’s popular Bayside Drive to cars. This is the area where the new kitten is presumed to reside.

If the kitten is a female, this could be a significant boost to the population. The time it takes for a female ocelot to gestate, lactate, and effectively raise their young is a limiting factor on the growth of the population. Ocelots typically give birth every other year and their offspring may stay with them for up to two years after being born.

To see and download images of the kitten, visit this site's multimedia page. Learn more about ocelots in South Texas at the Viva the Ocelot! Facebook page.

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