TxDOT teams up with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect ocelots

Photo: USFWSPhoto: USFWS

In an attempt to help protect ocelots that frequent the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is joining with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to build 12 corridors beneath two roads where many of the endangered cats have been killed by traffic. KSAT abc 12 reports that the $8 million project in Cameron County is expected to be completed in March 2017.

“We’re super excited to see what happens,” Hilary Swarts, a USFWS wildlife biologist, told the news agency. She estimates that only 80 ocelots are left in the entire state, as dozens of the cats have been killed on roadways, including three recent deaths reported on State Highway 186 in Willacy County where wildlife crossings are now being considered.

“We know 16 of them [ocelots] by their patterns, maybe a couple of more,” she told the news agency, adding that four ocelots had died on State Highway 100 since 2009 when TxDOT put in concrete medians to prevent head-on colisions. â€śA hit of four is 20 percent of the population,” she explained.

Swarts said that chain link fencing will extend from above the underpass and along the sides to help funnel the cats to the under-the-road crossings, which will be large enough for the cats to see what’s on the other side. “I really take it personally,” Swarts told the news agency, referring to each time an ocelot is killed. “I’m hoping I won’t have to feel that in the future, certainly not at the levels we’ve seen.”