Baby Ocelot, © FWS

There’s a new kitten in town: Baby Ocelot brings hope to struggling population in Texas refuge

The baby ocelot recently photographed by remote trail cameras on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is cause for celebration. The kitten is estimated to be 3-5 months old, and brings hope to a tiny population—and when we say tiny, we mean it! This baby brings the total number of these great cats on the south Texas refuge to 12.

Ocelot kitten, © FWS

The ocelot kitten is between 3-5 months and was recently photographed by wildlife cameras at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Ocelots are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act throughout their range from southern Texas and southern Arizona, through Central and South America into northern Argentina and Uruguay. Like their larger cousin the jaguar, ocelots are not, as often imagined, only found in tropical rain forests. Both the jaguar and ocelot were historically found in larger numbers throughout the southern United States, and are struggling to regain a foothold here.

There are two known populations of ocelots in Texas: the 12 animals at Laguna Atascosa and another 25 or so primarily on private ranchlands in two adjacent counties. These ocelots live in thornscrub habitat, a dense chaparral. The two populations are isolated from each other and from a third and much larger population in Tamaulipas, Mexico. There have been several ocelots of the Sonoran subspecies documented in Arizona, including one caught by a remote trail camera in 2009, one hit on a road in 2010, and two sightings in 2013. Ocelots have also been documented just south of the border in Sonora, as well as at the jaguar reserve about 120 miles south of the border.

The new kitten in Texas has a special place in our hearts because several years ago Defenders helped revegetate habitat needed by ocelots in Texas and worked to stop the Border Patrol from removing vegetation and installing huge lighting arrays, which would have fragmented habitat and potentially disrupted ocelot behavior. These days, we continue to work to protect ocelots and jaguars as they struggle to recolonize their habitat in the U.S. In Arizona, we are working to stop destructive and ill-conceived mining proposals that will hinder the recovery of these spotted cats.  These include the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains and numerous drilling proposals in the Patagonia Mountains. Right now, many Arizona mines stand idle, waiting for mineral prices to increase. There is simply no reason to build mines which further threaten endangered species, and which would harm the tourism-based economies of southern Arizona.

Ocelot kitten, © FWS

The baby ocelot brings hope to a population of only a dozen!

Ocelots and jaguars in the U.S. are threatened primarily by habitat destruction and fragmentation, including development, road building, and activity and infrastructure related to the international border. One thing both species need to overcome these threats is a commitment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete and implement science-based recovery planning. The Service is working on a jaguar plan, but the ocelot planning process has been idle for several years. It is impossible for endangered cats to reach their destination – recovery – without a roadmap that points the way there. A good recovery plan assures that everyone involved, including federal and state agencies, land owners, mining companies and the general public, knows what it will take to return these great cats to their rightful place and roles in nature.

Eva Sargent is Defenders of Wildlife’s Director of Southwest Programs

53 Responses to “There’s a new kitten in town: Baby Ocelot brings hope to struggling population in Texas refuge”

  1. Carol Bulan

    The Ocelot is so beautiful hope you take care of them they are so cute and adorable family of cats, and I really appreciate your help to the wildlife. God Bless you and your love to the animals. I love animals too and love wildlife. Take care and we will always read your post on FB. Thank you.

  2. Pam Ride

    That is so wonderful that we have all those cats .Please keep them safe love those cats .Will sent more money for them to .

  3. Frances Causey

    awesome to see! thank you for posting Eva…now if we could just get a baby jaguar in the Santa Rita mountains!

  4. Carol cornish

    When I read something like this, I walk around with a perpetual smile on my face. Let’s hope more kittens appear and bring those dismal figures up.

  5. Vanessa Herbert

    “The greatness of a people can be measured by how well it treats its animals.” 
Mahatma Gandhi 1869-1948

  6. Wendon Barnard

    Wonderful news! I hope and pray they continue to breed.

  7. Ola Cooney

    I hope that the US can get a “road map” or plan to save these beautiful creatures. Sooner rather than later.

  8. gregory cleary

    How can you not love these little creatures, I can only pray and hope!!

  9. Larry Murphy

    We have a pet house cat and even he is dangerous but I am sure that the ocelots in Texas as well as the lions here in South Africa are far more! I miss the cotton field across from my mom’s day care center in Texas along with the various types of wild animals in and near our house near Dallas.

  10. Oliver Craig

    Hopefully these wonderful cats do make a comeback to the Southern states,

  11. Stephen

    It’s nice to see our finaces have helped preserve these precious creatures! We had donated a large sum of money to save the habitat back in 2008. Though, we had sent emails and other communication to your organization we have never received any communication in return. This is rather disheartening that an organization, such as yours, who we strongly support, would not have been more considerate as to keep donors personlly updated, annually, as to how progress is being made. If you’re going to ask for donations I think it’s wise to show professional courtesy by corresponding with donors other than a single email saying Thank You and then nothing more. This isn’t about getting a pat on the back. It’s about keeping us in touch with how these animals are being saved. Donors are interested in saving all animals, moreso, than receiving notoriety for financial/public gain. D of W could not exist if not for caring folks who support your heroic efforts either financilly or signing petitions.

  12. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    save world nature savage

  13. Leslie

    The ocelots are just adorable! If I had the the land, I would love to have a habitat suitable for them and other wildlife. Now; What happened to New Mexico? Between the states of Texas and Arizona, there is a state called New Mexico, where I happen to live. Does it have a wildlife population? Does anyone know its even here? Do you track animals here, or do you just take a (big) jump over us?

  14. Barbara barbara

    They are so beautiful save these ocelots!

  15. Hubert Corinne

    Beautiful créatures. I hope and pray they will be ok.

  16. carl jansen

    This is great news.Please,lets keep these numbers growing.Been an avid outdoorsman my whole life and heve never seen one in the wild.Maybe if we can keep this up,we all can get to share them.OUTSTANDING!!!!





  19. susanna nylander

    thank you for good work, about ocelot babies, GOD , BLESS YOU

  20. olga

    these small wild cats cannot ever be regarded as dangerous to stock, so let’s make all possible efforts to help the ocelot repopulate its former habitat. After destroying so may larger predators (cougar, jaguar, wolves) we owe them a lot…..

  21. La Marca Monique

    These wild cats are so handsome, cute. Let them be protected against the poachers and others.
    No more killing on the furry animals for fur clothes and vanity!
    God protects animals against cruelty and cupidity of men.

  22. Beth

    The kitten is precious. I did not even know there were Ocelots in Texas.

  23. Jude Garner

    Now if all hunters are kept away they might have a chance, let’s hope so.

  24. Mireya Landin

    It’s a miracle that Defenders managed to convince a government agency to keep the area as an ocelot refuge. Congrat to Defenders and the Border Patrol. This is when politicians err by drastically fighting illegal immigration through means that harm the environment and precious and critically endangered wildlife.

  25. Mireya Landin

    Congratulations to Defenders and the Border Patrol for preserving these unique and endangered creatures.

  26. mary beth first

    Save these Ocelots. Not more of this killing of these animals for their fur for clothes. These animals should be protected. God has put these animals on the earth just like us. There are reasons all of us are here. Protect animals of all kinds or some day we won’t have any. Then where is our Eco System going to be?

  27. Victoria

    Well, I seriously doubt god is protecting any animals from anything given that 200 species per day are becoming extinct, but thanks to Defenders for your hard work and dedication and for sharing the good news with us. As a donor, I am fine with a newsletter and do not expect you to spend money on staff to communicate personally with me — spend the most you can on conservation efforts! That is why I send you the money.

  28. Genny

    This kitten is wonderful & I certainly hope these beautiful cats will return to a thriving status. Please do keep us posted–OK?!

  29. DeAnna Wiley

    What a beautiful cat. We must save him and his extended family. Dont let them go extinct. Please listen to the voices that are speaking for them. Help them, not hurt them.

  30. Carolyn Silvestro

    One life at a time-very precious and beautiful. May there be many more to come!

  31. chris

    On Animal Planet the only OCELOTS I saw were house cats, show cats, very beautiful, well trained, but they do need a enclosed cat patio, they can’t be set free because their wild instinct kicks in and they also eat raw meat their diet is the same as a wild OCELOT , they are big TOO!! Lol. You do need a special permit to own one. If I didnt have my to babies (cats) I would fork out a few grand for one. Lol.

  32. XD

    Keep up the good work! My Dad doesn’t let me donate online, but I can still try to sign as many petitions as I can! ( :

  33. Antonia Vassila

    Thank you it is a very good news when a wildlife baby is born.

  34. Heff

    Woo Hoo!!! Absolutely Slammming Saving The Earth So worth It!!!!

  35. Jay C. Davey

    ***What a precious and beautiful cat… “mankind better get it’s act together soon and save these amazing animals!!!”

  36. Kate

    How can the rest of the world not see what is happening under their noses. Our world is being destroyed by those that have the money to burn and we/you have to pick up the pieces. This is such awesome news, keep it up guys and girls.

  37. Giulia

    Are there universities or research centres who are actually studying the genetics or eco-ethology of ocelots and/or jaguars in Texas, or other US areas?
    Thank you very much

  38. MIKE

    hi guys[girls], I see that you’re doing an awesome job. we need more like you, and the world will be a much happier place. it’s still a wonderful place. please continue your help for our dear wildlife. mahalo [we thank you]. from maui, Hawaii, aloha, mike

  39. Rebecca Schedler

    I can’t believe you convinced the border patrol to not install lights! I am thrilled that there is a new baby and hope there will be many more. Texas needs to realize that people will come there from lots of other places to see ocelots (and jaguars!) and spend money while they’re there. It is to their advantage to be sure the habitat remains safe for these endangered beautiful cats!

  40. Paul Alfieri

    It is very encouraging to hear about the recovery efforts being done to restore the ocelot and jaguar habitat in the USA. I have traveled to the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge several times and am awestruck by its sheer beauty, solitude, and remarkable abundance of wildlife. It is my sincere hope that the ocelot continues to increase in numbers on the refuge and throughout its historic range. I praise the NWF for the vital work that it is doing to restore and protect our natural heritage.

  41. Sandro

    Wow, an Ocelot in the USA!!
    It is good to hear that the little guys are getting some attention. These creatures need all the help they can get, thank you for your efforts!!

  42. Thundershock179

    Ocelots are one of my favourite animals and i’m glad a cub has been found! Well done for finding the cute lil’ thing!!!

    P.S. Subscribe to my YouTube channel, Thundershock179!

  43. Chris

    So cool to know there are strange critters around still that most people don’t know about. Best wishes for these, and other, fascinating creatures, and thank you for your efforts!

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