The Rio Grande Valley is home to the nation's only breeding population of wild ocelots, and biologists estimate there are only 50 of the endangered cats clinging to a precarious existence in the remnants of thick brush on refuge land and private property. Unfortunately, one of the rare cats was recently struck and killed by a vehicle on a Valley roadway. Mitch Sternberg, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Gulf Coast Zone Biologist, "About a week ago a male ocelot was found dead on Highway 100 in an area where ocelots have been known to cross the road before." Hilary Swarts, United States Fish and Wildlife Service Ocelot Biologist, "The males in particular range much further than the females in search of mates and in search of territory they can occupy so the males are particularly high risk for all their travel.
It is because they are ranging so far that they end up encountering roads and basically they will get themselves onto a road, and then they just become panicked and that's really how the mortalities come about." Habitat loss and fragmentation are the leading cause for the decline in ocelots with vehicle collisions being the main mortality factor. This is the second documented ocelot to be killed on State Highway 100 since 2010. By affixing GPS collars on captured cats biologists are able to pinpoint critical crossing points, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is working with the Texas Department of Transportation to install additional wildlife crossing beneath roads which will hopefully lessen further loss of the endangered cats. Swarts, "When you have such a limited population as we have here even losing one individual can have a very big effect on population survival and recovery." With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore