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      Nature Report: Rare Ocelot 2013

      If you want to see a rare ocelot, then deep South Texas is the place to be, but biologists estimate less than 50 of the endangered cats remain in southernmost Texas.

      Mitch Sternberg is the lead ocelot biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and he is in charge of keeping tabs on the elusive cats whose population appears stable.

      "The only place in the United States of America where we have an ocelot population is actually in Texas. There are ocelots in Arizona, but there has never been a female documented in Arizona," he said.

      While an occasional male ocelot wanders into Arizona from Mexico, South Texas has a breeding population on the East Foundation property north of Port Mansfield, the Yturria Ranch north of Raymondville and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge east of Rio Hondo.

      "Currently we know of 41 ocelots in South Texas."

      Researches are just beginning their studies for the year, and they will live trap and radio collar ocelots to monitor their movements.

      Sternberg said, "The number one mortality factor for ocelots is actually vehicles, so wildlife crossings are critically important."

      By documenting the ocelot's travel patterns, biologists will be able to pinpoint where critical wildlife crossing need to be built under roads.

      "The one wildlife crossing that is installed in South Texas that could work for ocelots isn't immediately near the ocelot population, but there is all kinds of things using it. We have multiple bobcats crossing in there," said Sternberg.

      And the plan is to build more of these vital crossings beneath local roads in areas where ocelots travel.

      Sternberg said, "We are working with Texas Department of Transportation right now on several highway projects to get wildlife crossings installed as part of the highway project, in particular on 106 that leads to Laguna|That will improve it for wildlife and also increase the safety factor of that road for all the drivers."