Ocelot may by more widespread in Texas than thought


Ocelot may be more widespread in Texas than initially thought, scientists have said.

The feline is very rare in the US and is restricted to two small populations in southern Texas and Arizona, with breeding only regularly occurring in the former state. It is extirpated from Louisiana and Arkansas. The Texas population is thought to number as few as 100 and the species is federally endangered.

An Ocelot hit by a car in 2021 in Hidalgo County, Texas, was some 80 km from the state's known population of the wildcats, baffling conservationists.

Ocelot is rare and localised in the extreme south of the United States (via Flickr).


American Ocelots

A DNA test revealed it was related to wild Ocelots native to the US-Mexico borderlands region but had more unique genes than the rest of them, implying that the range of the animals might be wider than originally thought.

"The results suggest that this cat possibly occupies a region of South Texas not yet known to Ocelot researchers," Sharon Wilcox, expert in Ocelot conservation and senior Texas representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement.

"Hidalgo County may have more Ocelots present in its more remote sections where appropriate habitat and access to prey exists."

In South Texas, Ocelots rely on thorn forest habitat for denning and hunting. The discovery of the dead Ocelot so far away from where they are known to be located – and the fact that the area supports the same thorn-scrub habitat that the cats require – implies that there may be more of the felines living in Texas than known.