HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) – A photograph of a young ocelot was released Tuesday by the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on their Facebook page.
The endangered feline was captured through a trail camera on Thanksgiving Day last year at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
It is estimated that it was one to two months old at the time.
Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife servicing the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Hillary Swarts said the discovery was an exciting one.
“I think in my seven-plus years here [at Laguna Atascosa] that’s the smallest cat we’ve seen on a camera,” said Swarts.
In the United States, Texas is the only state with an ocelot population. Swarts says there are 80 or fewer known individuals living in Texas.
At Laguna Atascosa, the current count is 17 individuals including the photographed kitten. At this moment, it is unknown whether the baby ocelot is male or female.
The picture comes as a sign that conservation efforts are paying off.
“It’s really exciting for us because it’s always good to know that the ocelots are breeding successfully,” said Swarts.
Sorting through images captured by trail cameras can be a laborious endeavor. Though the image was taken in November, it took several months before being found by an intern.
“We have dozens of cameras out at any given time, and they’re taking pictures of anything that triggers them,” said Swarts. “There are thousands and thousands of photos, that’s an ongoing process, so having a couple of months lag time isn’t unusual.”
The discovery was a timely one, however. This week Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting a virtual Ocelot Conservation Festival.
The festival will be held March 5 through 7 through their website: texasocelots.com.
They will be sharing research, activities and information regarding ocelots.