New Ocelot spotted at Laguna Atascosa

OM344, a young male ocelot found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, is seen on a trip camera image from inside the refuge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Staff report

A new male ocelot has been sighted at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, captured by camera trap photos. 

The young male, being identified as OM344, was first detected by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) remote cameras on March 29. 

“Within a couple of months of the initial detection, he was captured on camera well enough to be given a unique identifier (OM344) and added to our population count as a known individual,” according to FWS Ocelot Biologist Dr. Hilary Swarts. 

“The sighting of a new ocelot at Laguna Atascosa is major news for the species,” Dr. Sharon Wilcox, Texas representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said. “With only 13 other recorded individuals documented living at the refuge, the addition of another young male is certainly cause for celebration.”

OM344’s spots led Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge staff to recognize he was a previously undiscovered ocelot in the refuge. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Wilcox continued, “The ocelot is under threat, and its recovery in the United States faces significant challenges due to habitat loss and vehicle strikes while crossing roads. Defenders of Wildlife will continue to work to protect this majestic wild cat.”

With a total U.S. population of fewer than 60 individuals, the ocelot is predicted by the FWS’s Recovery Plan to disappear from Texas within 40 years unless there are dramatic efforts to expand its habitat and decrease mortality, according to a press release from Defenders of Wildlife. 

As previously reported by the PRESS, Defenders of Wildlife, along with the Sierra Club, recently filed lawsuits challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ approval of the Annova LNG and Rio Grande LNG fracked gas export terminals proposed for the Port of Brownsville area. These projects threaten to contribute to the extinction of the endangered ocelot in the U.S., the lawsuit stated. 

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