Developing and Assessing Strategies for Reintroducing Ocelots to Historical Texas Habitat
To both help prevent the extirpation of ocelots in the U.S. and increase their numbers in the country, a group of nine partner organizations is launching a project to study the viability of potential actions designed to establish a new population of ocelots in Texas. The nine partner organizations, the Texas A&M University Natural Resources Institute, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo, East Foundation, the University of Tennessee Comparative and Experimental Medicine and The Center for Wildlife Health, Predator Conservation, A.C., Duquesne University, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, represent government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. Each brings unique and relevant expertise in wildlife science and conservation.
In this project, the partners are exploring the feasibility of reintroducing ocelots to a portion of their historical range in Texas that is distinct from known populations’ currently occupied habitat. The project’s exploratory research efforts include assessments of where ecologically and socio-politically suitable ocelot habitat occurs in Texas (and thus where possible reintroduction sites may occur), the methods for sourcing individuals for an additional population of ocelots, strategies for successfully releasing ocelots into the wild, development of plans for the long-term management of reintroduced ocelots, and determining the long-term viability of a reintroduced population given ecological constraints.
Additionally, the partners will focus on identifying policy options that would allow for ocelot reintroduction while also protecting the rights and interests of private landowners. Since private property represents most of the potential reintroduction sites in Texas, the partners are committed to a system that would allow successful ocelot reintroduction while protecting the interests of private landowners. As such, the partners will investigate the use of policy tools such as the establishment of an “experimental” population of ocelots or a Safe Harbor Agreement. Such tools would aim to relieve landowner concerns that ocelot reintroductions may result in restrictions on land use.
"Ocelots still exist in southern Texas thanks to the efforts of private landowners, multiple agencies and organizations managing and conducting research on both private and public lands to provide ocelot habitat. However, ocelot populations still need help in order to recover the species. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has assisted in ocelot research efforts in cooperation with East Foundation, the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for many years, while also providing technical assistance for habitat improvements on private lands through our technical guidance program. TPWD looks forward to helping provide the private landowners, whose properties serve as valuable habitat for ocelots, all the tools they need to continue assisting in recovery efforts without impacting their operations. We are proud to partner on this project and are excited to continue in assisting with the recovery of the ocelot so that we can ensure these iconic animals are still around for future generations in the South Texas region."
— Project Partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
"Thanks to the interest and efforts of landowners, researchers, and agency biologists over the years, two populations of ocelots currently reside in South Texas. While work continues to manage and conserve these populations and their habitats, some landowners in South Texas are interested in working to recover the species in additional areas. In response, Texas A&M University is leading this effort to assess potential habitat and other resources that would support ocelots, while avoiding roads and other sources of mortality for the species. As a partner in this research, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is contributing technical knowledge on ocelot ecology and on the types of information that landowners and project partners would need if habitat and other resources are available and landowners were interested in ocelot recovery on their lands. We look forward to continuing to work with Texas A&M, the East Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and others on this effort."
— Project Partner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
"At the heart of it, re-establishing a wildlife population through pragmatic solutions takes all-hands and as our land trends and demography work tells us, the very habitat this species needs to thrive is stewarded by private landowners right here in Texas. We're grateful for the opportunity to pursue this work and to continue to promote the stewardship of wildlife populations and their habitats through the application and translation of sound science and outreach. We're working together at this nexus of wildlife research and policy—bringing science, communities and strategists together to consider options that benefit this and future generations."
— Project Partner, the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute