Concrete barrier creates deadly dilemma for ocelots

A concrete barrier on Highway 100 is blamed for the deaths of ednangered ocelots

Ocelots roam hidden in the thorny brush of the Rio Grande Valley.

From time to time, they cross the prairies between Los Fresnos and Laguna Vista.

But to get there they must pass a dangerous path along Highway 100.

What's proven even more dangerous for the ocelots is a 6.5 mile-long concrete barrier.

The barrier was built with federal funds back in 2007 to decrease the number of car-related accidents and fatalities.

Although Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials say the numbers of accidents and fatalities have gone down, wildlife officials belive it's had the opposite effect for the ocelot population.

At least three ocelots have been run over by a cars as they try to get across the barrier.

The most recent death is 5-year-old male killed on July 9th.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Biologist Mitch Sternberg told Action 4 News that ocelots won't jump the barrier but try to find an opening.

"I think it's definitely contributing to the deaths of ocelots as they are trying to move across the landscape they run into certain kinds of barriers such as this one and its not something they can just get through or over very quickly," Steinberg said.

The majority of the 40 ocelots left in the United States are found in the Rio Grande Valley.

"It's pretty sad for us because we are working with a whole bunch of partners with Texas, Mexico and Tamaulipas to try to restore the ocelots and get off the endangered species list and as long as roadways continue to be the leading cost for 40 percent of ocelots for their deaths we just won't able to reach recovery," Steinberg said.

Right now, TxDOT is working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Servcie to come up with a solution.

TxDOT spokesman Octavio Saenz said that three sections have been removed from the barrier for the animals to cross.

They have also put fencing to direct the animals to the crossing.

"We have developed several wildlife crossings," Saenz said. "Now, is it fool proof? Of course, not but we are trying as much as we can to accomodate and protect our Texas treasures."

TxDOT is asking drivers to watch their surroundings, keep pace between the car in front of them and drive at a safe speed.