First Ocelot Den Discovered in 20 years at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge!
This past year was encouraging for the endangered ocelots of south Texas! Several females with kittens were documented using remote cameras placed in strategic locations where ocelots live and reproduce.
"I suspect that the past couple of years of abundant rainfall have made excellent breeding conditions for these endangered wild cats," said Hilary Swarts, wildlife biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), stationed at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Precipitation leads to plant growth, which in turn provides food for the wildlife that ocelots like to eat, such as rodents, rabbits, and birds. "With plenty of food and water, and minimal disturbance from humans, female ocelots have all the resources they need to reproduce successfully," said Swarts.
Of the seven known adult female ocelots at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, two are just now reaching the age to reproduce, three have recently been photographed with healthy-looking kittens following close behind, and one adult female has not yet been seen with any offspring. However, the seventh female brought researchers the most exciting discovery of all.
Using GPS technology, biologists tracked her movements and discovered the first confirmed ocelot den at the refuge in nearly twenty years. At the den site, researchers rejoiced to find a male ocelot kitten, weighing just shy of a pound, estimated to be three weeks old. The researchers took measurements and photos and left the area as quickly as possible in the interest of minimal disturbance. His mother, approximately 11 years old, was not at the den at the time, but returned soon after. USFWS researchers plan to track the kitten's growth and progress in the coming years.
Swarts and other researchers track and monitor ocelots in south Texas, collecting data on their population numbers, health, habitat use, range, and reproduction. These new kittens are now part of this ongoing effort.
In addition to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, private land plays a vital role in ocelot survival and recovery. Land owners that work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect ocelot habitat on their own property are also seeing camera evidence of new kittens.
Of the adult females captured on camera by USFWS biologists at the Yturria Conservation Easement in Willacy County, at least three have had kittens this past year. While ocelot females usually have only one kitten per litter, researchers were excited to see that one of the three mothers had twins.
"Data gathered in Willacy County is further evidence that private ranches are often great havens for wildlife and key partners in our conservation efforts. These private lands will be crucial to protecting habitat and wildlife into the future," said Boyd Blihovde, Refuge Manager at Laguna Atascosa NWR.
As long as USFWS and its partners continue to work toward reducing threats to ocelots in south Texas and ocelots keep reproducing successfully, there's great hope for the future of these majestic wild cats in the lower Rio Grande Valley!
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Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
22688 Buena Vista Blvd., Los Fresnos, TX 78566
Visitor Center & Friends Nature Store
Open 8 am - 4 pm Thurs. - Monday
CLOSED Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Refuge open daily sunrise - sunset
FIRST SUNDAY OF THE MONTH
Enjoy the refuge trails free of charge all day on the first Sunday of every month. Please check in at the Visitor Center to get a required vehicle pass.
Due to a staff shortage, the Visitor Center will remain closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the foreseeable future.
January - March, 2017 schedule
Habitat Tours of the Bayside Drive
Depart at 8:30 and 12:30
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Enjoy a 3 hour guided tour in our open-air tram through the habitats of the refuge including thornscrub forest, coastal prairie, wetlands and the scenic Laguna Madre. Discover the history of the refuge - both natural and cultural, see how lands are being managed for wildlife, and view the special wildlife that call deep south Texas home. Binoculars recommended. There will be 3-4 stops with short, optional walks. Tickets CASH or CHECK ONLY $4 for adults (16+), $3 seniors (62+), under 16 free. Tickets sold first come, first served the day of the tour. Call 956-244-2019 for more information.
8:30 to 12:30
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays
Take our birding van to birding hot spots on the refuge where private vehicles are not allowed. This tour will offer many opportunities to see waterbirds and raptors. Reservations required, call 956-244-2019. Cash or check only, $4 for adults (16+), $3 seniors (62+), under 16 free.
2-3 pm Daily
Discover some of south Texas' specialty birds on a short, easy walk around the visitor center. Wheelchair accessible. FREE with entrance fee.
Bahia Grande Bus Tour
8:15 - 11:30
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays
(starting Feb. 2)
Discover the history of this refuge unit and see how the habitats are being restored. This area is one of the largest coastal wetland restoration projects in the United States. Enjoy the coastal prairies and fresh and saltwater bays and the wildlife they provide for. Binoculars and cameras are recommended. No restrooms available. Reservations required, call 956-244-2019. Cash or check only $4 for adults (16+), $3 seniors (62+), under 16 free.
Shuttle Service on the Bayside Drive
Sundays starting January 15, 2017
Departs Visitor Center at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 1:00 & 2:00 - SUNDAYS ONLY
Visitors wishing to access the Bayside Drive and spend time doing photography, birding or walking may take the FREE shuttle. The shuttle service is not a tour, and is intended as transportation to the key areas of Pelican Lake, Plover Point Observation Deck, Redhead Ridge Overlook, Moranco Blanco Trail and the Aplomado Falcon Prairie. Visitors may get off the bus at the stops and stay until another bus comes by. Complete schedules available at the visitor center.
OPEN HOUSE - Bicycling Bahia Grande Unit
Saturday, January 21 and
Saturday, February 4
Visitors will have the opportunity to see this area as it's being restored. A 5 mile stretch of caliche road will be open for visitors to ride their bicycles through the unit where they will pass through coastal prairies, salt water bays and some freshwater wetlands. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED, SPACE IS LIMITED. Call 956-244-2019 to reserve a start time. FREE.
Ocelot Conservation Day
Saturday, March 4, 10-4 @
Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville
Our annual celebration of the endangered ocelot!
There will be info tables about all things ocelot, craft activities for the kids, and a special presentation featuring a live ocelot from the Cincinnati Zoo. All activities are FREE with zoo admission.
Discover the plight of these amazing wild cats that share the lower Rio Grande Valley with us, find out what the US Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners are doing for their conservation, and see what role you, as a private concerned citizen, can play to ensure ocelots are here for future generations to enjoy.
2017 Hunt Dates
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
During the firearm hunts, visitors may use the visitor center trails, Bayside Loop, Lakeside Drive, Osprey Overlook and the trails south of Lakeside Drive only.
Firearm Hunt No. 3
Dates: December 30, 2016 - January 1, 2017
Firearm Hunt No. 4
Dates: January 6 - 8, 2017
Firearm Hunt No. 5
Dates: January 13 - 15, 2017
Firearm Hunt No. 6
Dates: January 20 - 22, 2017
Firearm Hunt No. 7
Dates: January 27 - 29, 2017
Contact the Visitor Center Thursday through Monday at 956-748-3607 x111 or 956-244-2019 with any questions.
The last remaining ocelots
Unites States are found only in Texas. You can help save these beautiful endangered cats and help spread the word about protecting Texas Ocelots by buying this specialty license plate for your vehicle for only $30.00 additional. The non-profit organization, Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge .org, will receive $22 from the sale of every Save Texas Ocelots license plate, 100% of which will go to Ocelot Conservation. Plates can be purchased at any time and fees will be prorated. We thank YOU for helping keep ocelots thriving as part of our Great Texas Natural Heritage. To learn more go to
"Viva the Ocelot!"
Adopt an Ocelot
To learn more about the Adopt-an-Ocelot Program
Your donations help an oce-LOT!
The ocelot conservation program at Laguna Atascosa relies heavily on funds from generous donors. Here's a glimpse into what your donations could help fund
A donation of $250 is enough to fund a radio (VHF) collar.
A donation of $600 is enough to fund a trail camera.
A donation of $2,500 is enough to fund a GPS collar.
To help conserve ocelots by making a donation, visit the