There’s a new kitten in town: Baby Ocelot brings hope to struggling population in Texas refuge

The baby ocelot recently photographed by remote trail cameras on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is cause for celebration. The kitten is estimated to be 3-5 months old, and brings hope to a tiny population—and when we say tiny, we mean it! This baby brings the total number of these great cats on the south Texas refuge to 12.

Ocelots are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act throughout their range from southern Texas and southern Arizona, through Central and South America into northern Argentina and Uruguay. Like their larger cousin the jaguar, ocelots are not, as often imagined, only found in tropical rain forests. Both the jaguar and ocelot were historically found in larger numbers throughout the southern United States, and are struggling to regain a foothold here.

There are two known populations of ocelots in Texas: the 12 animals at Laguna Atascosa and another 25 or so primarily on private ranchlands in two adjacent counties. These ocelots live in thornscrub habitat, a dense chaparral. The two populations are isolated from each other and from a third and much larger population in Tamaulipas, Mexico. There have been several ocelots of the Sonoran subspecies documented in Arizona, including one caught by a remote trail camera in 2009, one hit on a road in 2010, and two sightings in 2013. Ocelots have also been documented just south of the border in Sonora, as well as at the jaguar reserve about 120 miles south of the border.

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