Great news, everybody! While reviewing footage from trail cameras, wildlife researchers found photos of a months-old baby female ocelot in Cameron County. In addition to being adorable, that’s important news: the ocelot—a smallish wild cat (typically anywhere from 18-40 pounds)—is common to Mexico and Central America, but is rarely seen in Texas, though it’s a native species to the region.
In fact, the documented wild ocelot population in South Texas is small enough that it can’t yet be counted in the teens. That population mostly resides on the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, east of Harlingen, and the fact that the kitten was found bumps the wildcats’ numbers from 11 to 12.
That tiny figure actually represents what scientists estimate to be a quarter of the wild ocelot population in the entire US. Researchers monitor the refuge with remote control trail cameras to keep tabs on the population—and it’s important, they say, that the new kitten is female, according to MySA.com:
To add to their elation, the biologists believe that the newly discovered ocelot, which they think is between three and five months old, is a female.
“Having an additional female in the population doesn’t just mean we have another individual,” said Swarts. “Females are especially valuable because they boost the reproductive power of the population and increase the chances of new ocelots.”
Ocelots breed slowly, for cats—despite the fact that they’re frequently small enough to pick up and cuddle, they don’t drop litters like your housecat does, typically having just one baby per birth cycle. Female ocelots reproduce about once every two years, according to researchers interviewed by The Monitor.
This is the first new ocelot discovered since late 2012. Here’s hoping she lives a long, healthy life in relative anonymity!
(image via U.S. Fish & Wildlife)