Ocelot Research and Management

Less than 80 ocelots live in the United States and most of these live on private ranches in South Texas. Consequently, private landowners are critical to the conservation and recovery of this wild, nocturnal, and secretive cat.

The East Foundation is one such landowner, having photo-documented over 20 individual ocelots on its El Sauz ranch near Port Mansfield. The remoteness, lack of paved roads and associated vehicle traffic help provide suitable habitat for one of only two breeding populations of ocelots in Texas. Information on ocelot population size, survival and mortality, movements and activity, prey abundance and food habits, habitat use, and competition with other carnivores are needed to solidify recovery strategies.

The Foundation is addressing these and other questions related to the population dynamics of ocelots on its lands. Using a suite of research techniques, including live trapping, radio and GPS telemetry, camera trapping, small mammal prey monitoring, and scat collection and analysis, the Foundation’s ocelot research team seeks to populate critical knowledge gaps related to ocelot conservation on private lands.

This project has produced several key findings of significance to private landowners in South Texas.

  • Camera trapping has documented 22 individual ocelots (13 males and 9 females), or approximately 27% of the known population in the United States, on Foundation lands
  • Ocelot home ranges averaged 4,374 acres, suggesting that conservation strategies involving multiple landowners will be necessary
  • Ocelots selected dense cover types, particularly compared to bobcats
  • Available small mammal prey was greatest in the spring and summer, followed by autumn and winter; in every season the white-footed mouse was the most abundant available prey species

These data and data collected over the next several years will reveal factors critical to the population dynamics, habits, and recovery of this endangered cat. Private landowners and the stewardship of their lands will play a major role in this collaborative conservation effort.

Partner: Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute