Ocelot kittens caught on camera in Texas give hope for last 2 remaining populations in US

Ocelot name comes from Aztec word ‘tlalocelot’ meaning ‘field tiger’

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There are only two populations of ocelots left in the entire U.S. and both of them are in Texas, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

And while there are only an estimated 50-80 ocelots left in Texas, there’s hope for the future for these rare animals.

Ocelots are nocturnal cats that derive their name from the Aztec word “tlalocelot,” which translates to “field tiger.”

These cats are considered endangered in Texas, according to National Geographic, so when an ocelot kitten was spotted on a trail cam in March it was considered a big deal for conservationists.

A baby ocelot approaches a trail camera

Posted by Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

TPWD officials said five juvenile ocelots were spotted on trail cameras in recent months, creating hope for the future of the species in Texas.

One of the threats to the survival of the species is that ocelots have a bad history of being hit by vehicles, according to the TPWD.

In early 2017, several underground tunnels were constructed underneath roads near the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge - an area where 40% of the rare cats have been killed by traffic.

A trail cam actually recorded an ocelot using one of the tunnels in January 2020. It was the first sighting of an ocelot utilizing one of the eight wildlife crossings that lead into Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Until then the cats had only been documented approaching and examining the underground crossings.

If you see an ocelot, you are asked to report it immediately so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TPWD officials can help ensure these felines have a future in the U.S. Find out who to contact here.

View previous KSAT footage of ocelot coverage below:

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.