What will it take to save the ocelot in Texas?

The state has a plan to help the ocelot rebound. It’s going to take funding.

USFWS | Public Domain
An ocelot in a national wildlife refuge.

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The ocelot is endangered in the U.S. Fewer than 100 of these beautiful cats remain in Texas, the only place where the ocelot lives in this country (other than what appears to be a solitary cat in Arizona).

Ocelots once roamed throughout much of the Lone Star State, but their range is now limited to the south Texas brush country and lower Rio Grande valley. Thankfully the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has created a plan to help the species begin to recover. The bad news is that the plan lacks a key ingredient: funding. 

Bigger than a house cat

Ocelots dot the arid Texas brushlands, creeping through dense chaparral at night to find their prey. From afar, the ocelot may appear to be an ordinary house cat, hardly bigger than a small dog, but up close its intricate patterns of black, orange and white lines and spots tell you that this cat belongs in the wild. 

Ocelot cubs, two to three per litter, are small fluffy balls of energy, agile and playful like house kittens. From a young age they learn to climb, leap and swim with incredible force and efficiency. If you’re lucky enough to see one, you might find it lounging atop a tree branch in the daytime or chasing fireflies at dusk. They use these skills to survive in a rapidly expanding world of danger. 

Texas Wildlife Action Plan

Camera-man @ Pixabay | Pixabay.com

Like all states, Texas has a Wildlife Action Plan. In the plan, the ocelot is considered a “species of greatest conservation need.” Habitat destruction, over-hunting and vehicle collisions are some of the key threats to the animal.

The challenge for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is that its plan to protect the ocelot and hundreds of other vulnerable species is woefully underfunded. We’re hoping to change that. 

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Congress required every state to develop a wildlife action plan. In them, states list the species of greatest conservation need and lay out what it will take to help the struggling species recover. Fish, insects, plants, mammals, birds and more are included. 

Creating these plans is an important step, but putting them into play requires dedicated funding.

That’s why we’re working to pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act in Congress. The bill would give every state new resources to restore habitat, control invasive species, reconnect landscapes and more. With $1.4 billion divided between the 50 states, this bill would help Texas follow through on its Wildlife Action Plan to save the ocelot, along with the little blue heron, Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, Chihuahua catfish and other vulnerable species. 

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is a game changer for American wildlife, and Senators Cornyn and Cruz have an opportunity to join the bipartisan bill as cosponsors and help the ocelot and other species recover. We urge them to do so. 

Let’s get this bill passed, so that states help save America’s wildlife. 


Steve Blackledge

Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America

Steve directs Environment America’s efforts to protect our public lands and waters and the species that depend on them. He led our successful campaign to win full and permanent funding for our nation’s best conservation and recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He previously oversaw U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns. Steve lives in Sacramento, California, with his family, where he enjoys biking and exploring Northern California.

Zoe Garderet

Wildlife Intern

Zoe Garderet is a senior at Tufts University and a wildlife intern for Environment America, based in Boston, Massachusetts.

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