Texas Ocelots on the Rebound
After dire news of increasing ocelot road deaths, remote cameras documented kittens at two different locations last year, as well as an ocelot den.
Researchers tracking the seven known adult female ocelots at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Rio Hondo followed one to discover the den, the first confirmed den sighting in nearly 20 years. Inside the den was a male kitten, about 3 weeks old. Three other females were seen with kittens as well.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called it a “burst” of kittens for South Texas last year, as even more were born on private land. At least three adult females at Yturria Conservation Easement in Willacy County also had ocelot kittens last year. Although there’s usually only one per litter, one mother had twins.
The births are significant because of low ocelot population numbers; previous statewide estimates fell between 80 and 100 total ocelots.
“The past couple of years of abundant rainfall have made excellent breeding conditions for these endangered wild cats,” says Hilary Swarts, wildlife biologist at Laguna Atascosa.
Precipitation leads to plant growth, which in turn provides food for the wildlife that ocelots like to eat, such as rodents, rabbits and birds. “With plenty of food and water, and minimal disturbance from humans, female ocelots have all the resources they need to reproduce successfully,” Swarts says.
Keeping these beautiful cats alive near busy highways has been a problem, but a possible solution is nearly ready. The state’s first highway wildlife crossings are being built under General Brant Road (FM 106) and Texas Highway 100 in the vicinity of the two conservation areas.
These will be the first such crossings developed for ocelots in the country.
Tamaulipas and Texas Partnering to Improve Fishing
Thanks to a recently signed agreement, Tamaulipas fishermen may donate largemouth bass to help Texas augment genetic diversity, and student interns from Universidad Tecnológica del Mar de Tamaulipas Bicentenario (La Pesca, Mexico) will volunteer at TPWD sites to gain practical experience.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to work with our Mexican neighbors on both saltwater and freshwater fisheries,” says Ross Melinchuk, director of natural resources at TPWD.
Pedro Sors, president of the Tamaulipas Fishing Association, spearheaded the cooperative agreement, which includes joint research projects and information exchange on best practices for fish hatchery operations and tournament fish handling. TPWD staff was invited to visit tournaments at Guerrero, Las Blancas and Marte R. Gomez reservoirs hosted by the Tamaulipas Fishing Association.
“The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center and the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery offer ideal locations for student interns to experience the full breadth of fisheries experiences such as production fish hatcheries, aquaria and outdoor educational programs for the public, and fisheries management,” says Craig Bonds of TPWD’s inland fisheries. Lance Robinson of TPWD’s coastal fisheries will coordinate the internship program at field stations and Sea Center Texas.
University Chancellor Antonio Garza de Yta said that another major feature of the Tamaulipas-Texas agreement is binational research projects over the next couple of years. Texas universities will be invited to join this partnership.