A couple visiting Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR) shared their extraordinary sighting of a mother and kitten ocelot just two weeks ahead of Ocelot Conservation Day, March 5, at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville.  

On Feb. 17, Jake Strouf snapped photos of the two ocelots as they crossed Buena Vista Boulevard, a main road in the refuge, in front of him and his fiancé. It was a rare opportunity for visitors of LANWR to see the mother and kitten, as these cats typically stay hidden and are most active at night. 

“The images of this ocelot family crossing the road are a powerful reminder that drivers must slow down and stay aware when traveling through Ocelot Country in South Texas,” said Sharon Wilcox, senior Texas representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “Vehicular collisions are the leading known cause of death for ocelots in Texas. Driver awareness and the construction of wildlife crossings to ensure safe passage for the cats can help to ensure the survival of these cats in Texas." 

Jake Strouf

Ocelots historic range extended throughout the Southwestern U.S., but now are limited to a small breeding population of about 60 to 80 cats in South Texas. LANWR is the only public refuge for these endangered wild cats, although others live on private ranch lands.  

“This rare sighting reiterates what a treasure LANWR is to South Texas and how important this area of public land is for ocelot habitat.” said Nicole Ekstrom, executive director of the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. 

Facing many challenges to survival, including habitat loss and fragmentation, ocelots are an essential part of the native Texas landscape. Learn more about this unique Texas mammal from experts at the upcoming Ocelot Conservation Day.  

Meet Gladys Porter’s First Resident Ocelot, Leelou 

On March 5, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Defenders of Wildlife will celebrate Ocelot Conservation Day. The event will be held at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will also include an Ocelot Run, with the proceeds benefiting the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge for ocelot conservation. 

The annual festival is a great opportunity to learn about these native Texas cats. The event is free to zoo attendees. On the day of the event, Defenders is covering the cost of zoo entry for the first 250 children. 

Ocelot Conservation Day will feature family-friendly activities, games and exhibits – as well as a chance to meet Leelou, the zoo’s new resident ocelot. Experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gladys Porter Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, the East Foundation, and the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute will also give presentations on ocelot conservation throughout the day.

Defenders of Wildlife is celebrating 75 years of protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

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