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With Just 50 Left, Ocelots Are Getting Frighteningly Close to Extinction

With Just 50 Left, Ocelots Are Getting Frighteningly Close to Extinction

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.

Ocelot 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).

Whats 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.

Take Action!

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.

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Photo Credit: Tambako The Jaguar

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4:15AM PDT on Jul 23, 2015

thanks for the article.

6:42AM PST on Nov 21, 2014


6:28AM PST on Nov 21, 2014

I've lived in Texas for decades; years spent living on a ranch in the Rio Grande Valley and others spent living in the Panhandle. I will never forget one fateful night when I caught glimpse of a majestical creature standing roadside,as if he were frozen in time. My headlights reflecting a glimmer from his eyes.I slowed to a halt and a brief moment we shared. With great grace and stealth, he leapt into darkness leaving not a shadow in the night. Out of many decades, that was my one and only encoun

10:02AM PDT on Sep 8, 2014

Petition signed and shared.
I sure hope they do everything possible to save these beautiful cats!!

12:21PM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

How about throwing the greedy Texans off the land they claim they "own" and turning it into parks? 95% of nature is not owned by humans

5:24AM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

That anyone would put profit over the lives of truly endangered creatures is beyond understanding. Think of the good will that could be gained by working to save these wonderful cats and simply speaking about how your company worked to help them. The offset for any cost would be bountiful. Is the world really run on quarterly profit only?

12:07AM PDT on Jul 2, 2014

It is estimated there are 800,000 to as many as 1.5 million worldwide. Their range does extend into South Texas --just barely. There are two isolated populations in Texas of about 80 to 120. So while the numbers are low in the US, this has been the case for quite a long time. They are not endangered, they are populous in their natural habitats.

What do you propose? Introduce them into new habitats? Shall we move 200,000 of them into Arkansas and 150,000 into Wyoming? How about 50,000 into New York's Central Park and let everyone feed them popcorn? Don't worry, if they die we can move in another 100,000 into some new habitat to replace the occasional road kill.

This petition is makes no sense. The reproduce fast enough to increase there numbers on their own. Leave them alone. The last thing we need is busybodies who think we should be meddling with nature.

9:41PM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

Signed. But with the USFWdis-Service being in charge, they are probably the ones who killed all the rest of the animals making room for ranchers.

8:08AM PDT on Jul 1, 2014

If the authorities put their mind to it , they might just help save this beautiful animal, now decimated by humans & their destructive ways. I dont like zoos but in this case ,maybe a breeding programme & also if necessary a huge area closed off as in africa like a sanctuary, protected. curbing the gun toting cruel hunting killing wild animasl culture in america might help to an attitude of respect for the countries fantastic willife!

2:05AM PDT on Jun 29, 2014

Sadly Noted * Signed

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