Home Columnist FORESTRY UPDATE by Gary Allen Burns 10-19

FORESTRY UPDATE by Gary Allen Burns 10-19

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The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) has been listed as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act since 1982. There are less than 80 ocelots in the U.S. and only two breeding populations, both being in Texas. The main threat to the ocelots is habitat loss and fragmentation, which presupposes genetic isolation, possible inbreeding and vehicle encounters with a mortality rate as high as 50 percent. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan includes restoring native thorn scrub habitat and possibly translocating cats from Mexico to boost genetic diversity. In addition, wildlife crossings would improve connectivity and lessen vehicle mortality.

According to the East Foundation, most ocelots are on private ranches in East Texas.

The Foundation has photo-documented 22 individual ocelots on its remote El Sauz ranch near Port Mansfield – 13 males and 9 females. It uses many research techniques to study the ocelot, including radio and GPS telemetry, scat collection and analysis, small mammal prey monitoring, and live trapping as well as camera trapping. The ocelot project, which has camera-trapped the 22 ocelots, or about 27% of the known population in the United States, has produced significant findings for private landowners in South Texas.

Small mammal prey was available in greatest numbers in spring and summer, less in fall and winter. The white footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) was the most abundant available prey species, regardless of the season. Ocelots select dense cover types, and since ocelot homeranges average 4,374 acres, conservation strategies will probably necessitate involving multiple landowners.