Last November, a beautiful and rare ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. The death brought the ocelet’s already precarious population numbers even closer to extinction.
As reported in National Geographic, the wildlife refuge that had been tracking the 4-and-a half-year-old male was nervous about his movements. Instead of roaming in camouflage friendly habitats (e.g thorn-scrubs), he had been meandering around convenience stores, roads, highways and fields.
Boyd Blihovde, the wildlife refuge manager, lamented, “to lose so many of these animals to vehicular collision just seems senseless.” While it seems senseless to us, the male ocelot was motivated by primal factors at its core: to mate and to set down its territory.
In the United States, the ocelot count is believed to be around 50 individuals. There were probably 100 individuals a decade ago. While there are ocelots also roaming Mexico, Central America and South America (except Chile), their U.S. territory is heartbreaking. The ocelots went from claiming Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona to two separate populations located in Texas’ Laguna Atascosa and Willacy County (part of private land).
There have also been a few ocelot sightings in Arizona, However, wildlife experts believe it’s unlikely that the cats have created a foothold with an active breeding population in the state. Yet, these sightings had positive effects. As reported in the Arizona Daily Star, ocelot sightings halted the development of the Rosemont Mine project. Issues related to endangered species trumped the mine target date and the permits.
This step back also highlighted more reasons not to go forward with the mine project. The project could create low flows or dry streams in the nearby water bodies. Damage to water affects the surrounding and endangered wildlife (there are more endangered animals besides the ocelot).
What‘s Killing the Ocelots?
In the U.S., active highways with fast cars are the number one threat to the cats. According to National Geographic, six out of 14 tracked ocelots were killed in deaths involving vehicles.
Yet, there are more imminent dangers to ocelots. Fragmentation and habitat loss are hurting the ocelots the most. Unfortunately, 95 percent of the original ocelot territory has been transformed to meet our agricultural and city-dwelling needs.
Bottom line: ocelots need more space to do what the 4-and-a-half-year-old male risked his life to do. Space is required to mate and to establish territory.
Decades have passed and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has done little to help the cats. However, the recent bleak numbers have changed this passive attitude. As reported in National Geographic, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has purchased 100,000 acres to develop ocelot territory. The bad news is that experts believe that more like one million acres is required to rebuild healthy ocelot numbers.
The ocelot’s survival will largely fall in the hands of individuals. For example, 95 percent of Texas is privately owned, so landowner initiatives and incentives will mean survival or extinction for the U.S. ocelots.
The ocelot is a beautiful part of America’s last remaining wildlife. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has taken steps to save the ocelot, it needs to do more. Please and sign and share this petition today to help the future ocelot generations of tomorrow because the U.S. might only have one shot to save the cats from extinction.
Photo Credit: Tambako The Jaguar