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      Nature Report: Ocelot Savior

      Deep within the remnants of thick brush in southernmost Texas one of the rarest cats in the United States clings to a precarious existence.

      No one knows how many endangered ocelots remain in Deep South Texas, but biologists speculate that there are perhaps as few as fifty of the elusive cats.

      Researchers have documented three small breeding populations of ocelots on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Robert East Wildlife Foundation property and the Yturria ranch north of Raymondville.

      Private landowners hold the key to the future of the endangered ocelot as the vast majority of remaining wildlands in the state is in private hands, and rancher Frank Yturria has been the leader in working to save the spotted cats.

      Frank Yturria said, "All my life I have been a conservationist. Even my father was a conservationist. He never did allow a lot of excessive hunting on his property or overgraze the property, and it filtered down to me."

      Some 25 years ago Yturria became the first private landowner to set up a conservation easement with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the ocelot, and he has since substantially expanded that initial 500 acres.

      "Since that time I have increased that area for the ocelot to 2,600 acres with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nature Conservancy," said Yturria.

      He is dedicated to doing all he can to save the extraordinary cats and is planning on providing even more sanctuary for them.