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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Can we create enough bona fide and connected habitat to grow the 55-80 Ocelots that are left in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and in in Willacy County, Texas?...............At the time of European colonization in the 16th century, Ocelots roamed from what is now Arkansas to Arizona utilizing the dense Tamaulipas thorn scrub habitat that existed before 95% of it was cut, burned and chewed up for agriculture and human habitation.........Like cousins, the Bobcat, Lynx and Puma, when male Ocelots reach maturity, they bolt from their mothers natal territory to seek their own 7 square mile habitat and mate with females............Unfortunately, the remaining scrub habitat is so splintered by roads, that a high % of prospecting male cats get killed by cars..........."One of the problem roads for ocelot mortality is Texas State Highway 100, which runs from I-69E/77 east to Port Isabel"................. "The Texas Dept. of Transportation has recently pledged $5 million to retrofit four separate wildlife crossing areas along the highway to reduce wildlife mortality"......... There is also going to be fencing along the road that prevents the cats from crossing and helps to funnel them toward the culverts where they can cross under the road safely.............Let us hope that any necessary additional funding and building of these underpasses occurs quickly enough to prevent the Ocelot from disappearing from the USA

Ocelots battle for survival

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Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2016 9:52 pm
HARLINGEN — Ocelots have never had it easy.
First, almost all of the habitat they roamed prior to Europeans’ arrival in North America has been consumed by agriculture and development.
Then there was the popularity of using ocelot pelts in what passed for high fashion in the 1960s. Since the only usable part of an ocelot pelt was the strip along the back, it took 40 ocelots to make a single coat.
If that wasn’t enough humiliation, ocelots became popular as pets. You’ve probably seen photos of painter Salvador Dali with his ocelot, Babou. Opera singer Lily Pons also had a pet ocelot named Ita.
Ocelots, as you’re no doubt wondering right now, make awful pets.
“They’re super cute when they’re small and you can cuddle them,” biologist Hilary Swarts says. “Then they start to grow up and they want to take your face right off your head, and they want to shred all your furniture. They want to eat your dog. They want to do all kinds of things that are terrible.”
Swarts knows what she’s talking about, even if she’s never had an ocelot of her own.
The wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stationed at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of two areas where the endangered Texas subspecies of ocelot remains. The other is in WillacyCounty.
She spoke last week at the annual dinner of the Valley Sportsmen Club at Ol’ D’s Soda Shop in downtown Harlingen, cataloging the current state of the wildcat in Texas.
Her expertise in ocelots involves the cats hanging on in Cameron and Willacy counties. At one time, ocelots ranged from Arkansas to Arizona.
Today, Swarts said, there are 55 “identified” ocelots in South Texas that have been caught on game or trail cameras the cats have tripped while ambling through their preferred habitat of nearly impenetrable Tamaulipas thorn scrub.
Each ocelot has a unique pattern of rosettes on its coat, which biologists use to identify and track the cats, some of which are radio-collared. Swarts said biologists project the total ocelot population in Cameron and Willacy counties to be 80, since some are likely to be living on private land with suitable habitat where the biologists don’t have access.
“As the pet trade and fashion trade subsided, there are other threats that the ocelot are still facing or still kind of suffering from now,” Swarts said. “Probably the biggest ones are … habitat loss and fragmentation. And those are two different concepts.”
Swarts expanded on that theme, explaining the problem with loss of habitat is compounded by remaining habitat being a patchwork of land that doesn’t connect. In other words, there are no corridors for cats and other wildlife to safely travel to and from what remains of the appropriate habitat.
“Ninety-five percent of that habitat has been wiped out … what habitat that is left over is not in one big beautiful piece, it’s in all these different patches. And that means that when an ocelot wants to move from one to the other, it’s going to have to go through dangerous, human-occupied territory to get there, and that has a lot of risks associated with it.”
After habitat loss, perhaps the most immediate threat to the ocelot population in South Texas is the automobile. The lack of genetic diversity within the South Texas ocelot group is another issue.
In fact, Swarts said, five ocelots biologists know about were killed by vehicles within the past eight or nine months.
“When you have a population of 80, five is a serious number; it’s a serious loss. Not only are you just losing those individuals, you’re losing all the babies that those individuals would have. So it’s a really powerful problem … fragmentation.
“If I’m an ocelot that lives here, and I want to get down here, I’ve gotta go through here and I’m undoubtedly going to have to cross a road. And I’m little, and I’m running fast, and I’m out at night, so it’s very hard for cars to see me and spot me, and so you get a lot of mortality that way.”
So why does the ocelot cross the road?
Part of the answer is ocelots are highly territorial and also wide-ranging. Biologists say an ocelot needs a range of seven square miles, which is not an easy homeland to carve out when habitat loss and fragmentation mean it must be the right “kind” of seven square miles.
“More males are getting killed. The reason for that is when a male is born and he’s little, he’s cute, he doesn’t bother anyone, he’s in nobody’s way.
“He starts to grow up, right, so he becomes a handsome young man. All of a sudden, the older males don’t want the competition and they boot him out of the area. And so he’s forced to go out on the landscape to try to find somewhere to live where the older males aren’t going to kick his you-know-what.
“And in doing so, they get out and they get on these roads, and they just get completely slammed.”
But the future is not all a gloomy night on a lonely highway for the ocelot. There are some signs of hope for the Texas subspecies.
One is WillacyCounty landowner Frank Yturria, who put 7,400 acres of prime ocelot habitat into easement within the past couple of years.
“What that means is that the Yturrias still own this property, but attached to the title of the property is a commitment to never develop the land. So it can have an affect on land values but it also (shows) where your priorities are. I mean if you want to put in a mall, this is not a piece of land you want to buy,” Swarts said.
Another reason to be optimistic about the ocelot is cooperation from the Texas Department of Transportation, Swarts says. TxDOT has been willing to work closely with biologists on constructing underpasses allowing ocelots and other wildlife to avoid crossing roads and highways.
“The best way is to keep cats from getting hit by cars is to keep them off the roads altogether. So these highway underpasses … this is what we’re aiming for.
“Whenever TxDOT is doing new road projects in ocelot areas, we’re trying to work with them to get these underpasses in so that the cats never really have to get on the asphalt, they can walk right under and they’re safe.”
One of the problem roads for ocelot mortality is Texas State Highway 100, which runs from I-69E/77 east to Port Isabel. TxDOT recently pledged $5 million to retrofit four separate wildlife crossing areas along the highway to reduce wildlife mortality.
“There is also going to be fencing all along there, so basically if I’m a cat and I walk over and I get to the road, there’s a fence there. And if I go right or if I go left, it’s going to lead me to an underpass. I can go under the road safely, be happy on the other side, and have never run the risk of getting hit by a car,” she said.
“For this partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation, it’s probably going to be one of the main things that keep these cats here in Texas.” 

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