Defenders of Wildlife is thrilled to once again join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Friends of Laguna Atascosa in celebrating the annual Ocelot Conservation Festival.
Now in its 25th year, the Ocelot Conservation Festival was created to celebrate these unique Texas cats, raise awareness of their presence in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and to call attention to the challenges they face on the Texas landscape. This year, the festival runs from March 5-7.
Deep South Texas is home to the only breeding population of ocelots in the United States. Some of these Texan wild cats make their home on private ranchlands, while others bed down in the Tamaulipan thornscrub of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. With only 60-80 cats between these two subpopulations, the ocelot is highly endangered in the U.S.
Ocelots face many challenges in Texas. Their thornscrub habitat is increasingly destroyed and fragmented as development continues across the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Vehicular strikes on roads remain the leading known cause of death to ocelots. These cats need more habitat to live and thrive, and safe passage under dangerous roadways as they move about in search of new territory, prey and mates.
Defenders works on many fronts to support efforts underway to conserve and protect these spectacular cats. We work at the federal and state levels, advocating for prioritization and funding for wildlife movement corridors and crossings for the safety of wildlife and human communities. Defenders’ National Wildlife Refuge Expansion Campaign supports Laguna Atascosa NWR’s acquisition of key habitat for endangered species recovery, including the ocelot. We remain ardent supporters of ocelot conservation including ongoing monitoring of the cats at the refuge by FWS, and we work to support habitat restoration on refuge lands and beyond. We are closely monitoring a variety of developments in the ocelot coastal corridor to ensure activities like liquid natural gas exportation and private space exploration do not come at a cost to iconic, endangered animals like the ocelot.
The ocelots at Laguna Atascosa NWR are special for many reasons. Residing on public lands, these wild cats truly “belong” to all of us—and it is a great responsibility to see that this special place in Texas remains a safe harbor for them.
If you would like to learn more about how you can help our wild Texas neighbors, whether you live in the Lower Rio Grande Valley or on the other side of the world, here are Six Ways You Can Help Ocelot Conservation.