Sunday, September 18, 2016
The two remaining breeding populations of Ocelots in the USA (some 50 animals in two South Texas locales) finally have their Federal Recovery Plan from the USFW Service.........Some 25 years in the making, "the Ocelot Recovery Plan may be the most in depth federal document ever compiled for an animal species, featuring the work of dozens of scientists and eventually spreading to 237 dense-packed pages on habitat, genetics, population numbers and more"............."A map of the ocelot’s range in Mexico and the United States shows two fingers spreading up the Gulf of Mexico into South Texas in the east, and the coast along the Gulf of California up into Arizona to the west"............Habitat and Highway mortality are the keys for persistence of our "small cat" over the next century and this management plan includes 8 wildlife underpasses to facilitate movement back and forth between the Ocelot populations in Willacy and Cameron(Texas) Counties..............Let us stay tuned to see what else might be included in the plan..........Is there a restoration component where additional releases of Ocelots might take place within the designated habitat so that more than two breeding populations exist within the lower 48 states?
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2016 11:00 pm | Updated: 11:16 pm, Sat Sep 10, 2016.
LOS FRESNOS, Texas — Stalking the thorn scrub in the night, searching for rats, rabbits and lizards, the ocelot — for all its surreptitious nocturnal ways — has nevertheless become an iconic animal in Texas and the world.
And now, more than 25 years after it was initiated, ocelot subspecies in Texas and Arizona finally have their own official federal recovery plan.
The Valley Morning Star reports the Ocelot Recovery Plan may be the most in depth federal document ever compiled for an animal species, featuring the work of dozens of scientists and eventually spreading to 237 dense-packed pages on habitat, genetics, population numbers and more.
The fate of that wildcat hunting under the moon very well may depend on what is in those pages.
“It’s incredibly exciting for us,” said Hilary Swarts, a federal biologist at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge who studies ocelots.
“Not only is it the termination of essentially a 25-year-long process, during which tons of information was learned about Texas ocelots as well as Arizona ocelots, the synthesis is amazing,” Swarts added. “This is the most comprehensive plan I’ve seen.”
The plan’s assessments of the risks ocelots face are no surprise to anyone who has followed developments surrounding the cats over the years.
Encroachment of human development, habitat loss, highway mortality and concerns about genetic viability are all there.
But maybe for the first time, a recovery plan for an American subspecies has managed to cross a number of borders to document what is known about ocelots throughout each of the states of Mexico, and country-by-country all the way to Argentina, where the ocelot’s range in the Americas ends.
Initially, when the plan was first being formed, it wasn’t even exclusively about ocelots. Instead, it was to look at several wildcat species — ocelot, jaguar, jaguarundi — found in Mexico and the United States. By the time it morphed into something exclusively about the ocelot subspecies in Texas, around 2010, the study’s authors then were tasked to include the Arizona ocelot subspecies, too. A map of the ocelot’s range in Mexico and the United States shows two fingers spreading up the Gulf of Mexico into South Texas in the east, and the coast along the Gulf of California up into Arizona to the west.
Looking smack at the middle of the map, it becomes apparent ocelots have little taste for desert living. The Chihuahuan Desert, which dominates north-central Mexico and also spreads into West Texas and New Mexico, has no resident ocelot population.
Yet it isn’t just geographical space with which the recovery plan is concerned.
It is also about time.
The plan covers 100 years, which is a common frame of reference used by biologists, and it includes a mathematical model of risk analysis for different ocelot populations in the United States and Mexico.
“So if you see all of the population, the chance of extinction in 100 years is not so bad, right?” Swarts said. “Tamaulipas? Not so bad. Willacy? We’re starting with a pretty low number, not very promising. Laguna? We’re starting with a pretty low number, not very promising.
“You can see in the best-case scenario, we’ve got 70 years,” Swarts said. “And in the worst-case scenario, we’ve got 15 years.”
But “not promising” does not necessarily translate as inevitable.
The most immediate threat to ocelots in Cameron, Willacy and Kenedy counties is highway mortality.
Four ocelots are known to have died under the wheels of vehicles this year, all of them young males. Since June 2015, seven ocelots — six males and a female — have been killed by cars.
To counter these types of ocelot deaths, the Texas Department of Transportation is building a series of eight wildlife underpasses at some highways.
Swarts says highway mortality for ocelots essentially is caused by another threat to the cats, which is lack of suitable habitat. Ocelots are much more selective when choosing a place to live their more numerous bobcat cousins.
“It would be a boon for creating a safe passageway so they’re not getting creamed every time they cross [Highway 186]” between ocelot populations in Willacy and Cameron counties, Swarts said.
There have been occasional individual ocelots that have moved back and forth between these two population pockets, but safe transits have been rare.
“For me, it’s really hard to separate these things out, because ultimately the mortality from vehicles and the loss of genetic diversity are really corollaries of habitat loss,” Swarts said. “If it weren’t for habitat loss, you wouldn’t encounter these problems.”
Posted by Rick Meril at 11:01 PM