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      Nature Report: Park Closures

      If you were planning a trip to one of the Rio Grande Valley's National Wildlife Refuges you are out of luck, as the government shutdown has forced the closure of Laguna Atascosa and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

      Boyd Blihovde, Refuge Manager, Laguna Atascosa, "We don't know how long the government shutdown will last, but we hope it is as short as possible so that folks can come back out to the refuge." Hopefully, the current government shutdown will last no more than a few weeks, and the local refuges will reopen soon. However, the popular bayside drive at Laguna Atascosa is set for a long-term closure to private vehicles on October 15. The 12-mile bayside loop road winds thru vital ocelot habitat, and after extensive studies refuge personnel has deemed it necessary to close the tour road to prevent ocelots from being hit by vehicles. Blihovde, "We are going to close bayside drive starting October 15, to private vehicles. Now, the public will still be able to use bayside drive. They will be able to bike, hike and also be able to go on tours offered by the refuge." The only breeding population of wild ocelots remaining in the United States is found here in South Texas, and biologists estimate that no more than fifty of the endangered cats survive on refuge lands and surrounding private ranches.

      The number one cause of ocelot deaths results from being hit by vehicles so refuge personnel are doing what they can to protect the rare cats. Blihovde, "We hope that people realize that this is something that we hope will be temporary. Once we have the resources, the funds to do so, we are hoping to redirect this drive so that it does not go thru ocelot habitat." With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore