South Texas is home to the last remaining breeding populations of ocelots in the U.S. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that fewer than 100 of these beautiful neotropical wildcats remain at the very southern tip of Texas, inhabiting remnant swaths of densely tangled and highly diverse Tamaulipan thornscrub habitat. These isolated populations are vulnerable to a variety of threats, including road-associated mortality. Since monitoring of south Texas ocelots began in 1983, over 50% of recorded mortalities have been attributed to vehicle collisions. In collaboration with USFWS, M.S. student Greta Schmidt is revisiting ocelot mortality data to revamp a database of known road mortalities by linking these mortality sites with landscape and demographic predictors of risk. At the beginning of January, Greta returned to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, where the Ocelot Monitoring and Recovery Program is based, to pore over 30 years of ocelot mortality records in order to verify older (read: the 80s) reports, which involved a lot of fun time spent with a scanner and mountains of old datasheets! This will be the first part of her multi-faceted project exploring the viability of wildlife crossing structures as a mitigation tool to reduce ocelot road mortality risk and restore connectivity of ocelot populations in south Texas.
The Lewison Lab