AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking public input on a plan to try to grow the population of endangered ocelots in South Texas.
TPWD, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are encouraging the public to review and comment on TPWD’s Enhancement of Survival Permit application.
The permit, which is part of a proposed Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement with the East Foundation, supports efforts to grow the population of endangered ocelots by expanding their range in South Texas.
According to USFWS, the ocelot is listed as an endangered species throughout its range in South and Central America, Mexico, southern Texas and southern Arizona. In Texas, fewer than 100 ocelots are currently known in two small, isolated breeding populations on private ranch land and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
TPWD said a Safe Harbor Agreement is a “voluntary agreement involving private or other non-federal property owners whose actions contribute to the recovery of species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.”
“Once roaming widely across Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona, ocelots have now been reduced to a small group in South Texas largely due to habitat loss,” said Amy Lueders, the USFWS Southwest Regional Director. “With this agreement, the East Foundation has proposed an innovative strategy to aid in the ocelot’s recovery by expanding their range in South Texas. We encourage the public to review the proposed agreement and provide us their input during the public comment period.”
The agreement would reintroduce ocelots on the East Foundation’s San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg and Starr Counties. It would also provide habitat for ocelot dispersal onto private lands close to the San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Starr and Zapata Counties.
Other proposed conservation measures in the agreement include ocelot monitoring, habitat management and research.
According to TPWD, the Safe Harbor Agreement was developed after years of research and planning among private landowners and the groups involved in the proposal.
“The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction,” according to a release from TPWD. “Hundreds of plants and animals have been recovered, are stable or improving thanks to the collaborative actions of tribes, federal agencies, state and local governments, conservation organizations and private citizens.
TPWD and the USFWS encourage the public to review and comment on the Enhancement of Survival Permit application for the proposed SHA for Ocelot Reintroduction. Public comments will be accepted through Oct. 16.
Comments may be submitted online at https://www.regulations.gov. Search for and submit comments on Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2023-0160.
Comments can also be submitted by mail addressed in the following way: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2023-0160; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA, 22041-3803.
For more information about the ocelot reintroduction project in Texas, visit www.RecoverTexasOcelots.org.