A beautiful and endangered wild cat known as the ocelot once roamed the Unites States from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana. This unique species suffered from habitat loss due to agriculture, hunting for their fur and pet trading. As a result, the only place you can spot these talented creatures today is deep in South Texas.
They can be found at the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge as it is home to one of the two remaining breeding populations of ocelots in Texas. You can also see these endangered cats at Alamo’s own Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. They have been known to regularly visit the refuge and have begun to call it their home.
The Importance of Seeing an Ocelot
Approximately 800,000 ocelots are found worldwide with an estimated 80 found in two isolated populations in southeast Texas, one of which is Laguna Atascosa which houses an estimated 20 ocelots. This is actually good news because the number of ocelots reported last year at Laguna Atascosa was a mere 12! Reporting sightings very much helps refuges.
If you happen to visit Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge or Laguna Atascosa and see an ocelot, it is imperative you immediately report it. While it is a sight to behold one of these creatures, your report could help the ocelot population.
Information gathered on these wild cats is extremely important and helps biologists learn more about where they live, the habitat they are using, their genetic makeup and much more. All of this information is used to make sure ocelots will always be part of the American landscape. Even if you, sadly, come across a deceased ocelot, it is best to also report it.
You can easily contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at any of the following numbers to report your sighting:
• South Texas Refuge Complex Law Enforcement Dispatch – 956.784.7520
• Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters – 956.784.3607
• Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters – 956.784.7500
Ocelot or Bobcat?
If you do plan on reporting a sighting, make sure you are in fact looking at an ocelot and not a bobcat. Visitors to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Laguna Atascosa often confuse ocelots with bobcats. Ocelots are smaller than bobcats and one of the most differentiating factors of these two are their tails. Ocelots have a long ringed or barred tail while bobcats have a short, bobbed tail.
Do you know the difference between an ocelot and bobcat?
How You Can Help
If you’d like to learn more about ocelots and possibly even adopt one from our neighbors, Laguna Atascosa, click here. You can also buy a specialty license plate for your vehicle and 74% of that purchase will go directly to Ocelot Conservation.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the effort to preserve the ocelot population, contact us at 956.784.7500 or contact Laguna Atascosa at 956.784.3607.