A male ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and
Los Fresnos, Texas, on July 9, 2014. The cat was discovered by a member of
the public who reported the incident to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Found along the concrete traffic barrier, the wild cat’s injuries are
consistent with a vehicular collision. It is the fourth
documented endangered ocelot killed by a vehicle on this stretch of highway
and is the third in the last four years since the concrete traffic barrier
The ocelot was one of 12 being monitored by the Service at Laguna
Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The loss of this ocelot is significant
in that he was 20% of the current breeding male population at the Refuge.
Ocelots are a federally listed endangered species whose historic range in
the U.S. extended from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana, but is
now reduced to less than 50 animals, mostly in south Texas. Though loss of
habitat is the single greatest threat to the cats, an estimated 40% of
ocelots from the Refuge, studied over a 30-year period, have died as a
result of being struck by a vehicle. “We believe the concrete barrier is
contributing to the increase in ocelot deaths by vehicles in this area”
stated Laguna Atascosa Refuge Manager Boyd Blihovde. “Many animals will
not, or cannot, jump them, get trapped on the road and pose a danger to
drivers and themselves. We have been working with the Texas Department of
Transportation on constructing wildlife crossings, but clearly more needs
to be done”.
For the wild population to stay healthy and genetically diverse, ocelots
from the Refuge need to travel and meet up with ocelots from other
populations. Crossing roads and highways is a deadly hazard for the cats.
Scientific studies have shown that wildlife crossings, an under-the-road
passage with fencing to funnel animals to it, are very effective at keeping
wildlife off roads. Crossings have been successful in south Florida where
vehicle collisions with endangered Florida panthers were a huge threat to
their existence. Locally, an existing wildlife crossing on
State Highway 48, near the Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit, has been used by
bobcats, raccoons and coyotes. “Under road wildlife crossings can play an
important role in alleviating unnecessary ocelot deaths” says Zone
Biologist Mitch Sternberg. “Because so few wild cats remain, losing one
animal has a huge impact on the population. The crossings not only keep
wildlife safe, but also the public”.
Sternberg also stated the public plays an important role in keeping this
endangered wild cat in the Rio Grande Valley. “The public can contribute to
our knowledge of ocelots by watching for ocelots throughout the valley”.
The public is encouraged to report any
possible sightings to the Refuge by calling 956-748-3607, or after hours
To learn more about ocelots in south Texas, visit the Refuge’s website