Building Walls

Building border walls is not a new concept but the impact they have tends to focus on the human element, of how the walls or fences will be used to keep people out, rather than the toll they take on the environment and wildlife. The first time I was introduced to how fences impact wildlife was many years ago while reading Cry of the Khalahari, which touches on Botswana’s veterinary fences that were erected to “stop the spread foot and mouth disease to cattle” and to meet strict EU regulations for the beef trade. The impact these fences had on wildlife was undeniable and brutal “many wild animals including giraffe, elephant, zebra and many species of antelope, became ensnared, cut off from migratory routes and from vital resources.” In short, many species perished as a direct or indirect result of the fences.

Botswana wasn’t the only country to erect fences for the purpose of protecting livestock, Australia put up a fence in the 1950’s to keep sheep safe from predators like dingos and wild dogs. The fence didn’t work out exactly as planned and it ended up also protecting kangaroos which turned out to be more of a problem for sheep due to the fact that they competed with them for pasture.

More recently the effects of the anti-refugee wall between Slovenia and Croatia was studied. The report showed how the barrier is hurting gray wolves, Eurasian lynx as well as possibly threatening brown bears. Suggestions to help alleviate the pressure at the fences includes: using new alternative forms of high-tech monitoring methods that would allow selected sections of a border to remain unfenced while still providing security; more carefully thought out fence alignment that would reduce it effects; and, design that minimizes the chance of wildlife entanglement and death similar to border fencing that has been “retrofitted between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to enable the saiga antelope to pass between the two nations.”

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Habitat fragmentation caused by the fence interrupts gene flow and threatens the already small population of Eurasian Lynx – Image Wikipedia

While the report recognizes that many fences are permanent, it says the role of conservationists is critical and that our knowledge and understanding about border fences and their effect on wildlife needs to be improved. Interestingly it was found that in some cases the fences, “may unintentionally actually help conservation by preventing animals from roaming into countries with low degrees of law enforcement, by creating well-guarded spaces where human impact is minimal and by preventing the spread of wildlife diseases.”

Germany’s Cold War barriers of fences and walls that separated East and West later became an accidental nature preserve and is now part of a green belt that runs through central and eastern Europe. In China the Great Wall was found to have no major effect on wildlife as it was not one solid piece of construction but rather consisted of a series of different builds including mounds of pounded earth which later became degraded from use. However, in specific areas where the wall is truly solid a team of Chinese scientists, who conducted a study of plant species on both sides, confirmed that in these areas it was indeed a physical barrier to gene flow.

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Arizona section of the U.S.-Mexico border wall – Via Northern Jaguar Project – Photo by Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr.

Connectivity and wildlife is hot topic these days when it come to urban planning and building roads and freeways, but it is very unlikely that an extension of a wall at at the U.S.-Mexico border would take into account concerns for wildlife, habitat fragmentation, or gene flow for endangered species like the jaguar.  While humans can and will generally find ways around walls, wildlife from snakes and frogs to jaguars, pumas, bob cats and big horn sheep will not be able to move freely. They will be forced to adapt to smaller territories which will ultimately prove deadly to them especially when their access to food, mates and water, is cut off.

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Mountain lion at border wall U.S. Border Patrol – Image Northern Jaguar Project

In 2006 the Secure Fence Act, which was responsible for the 1,000 kilometers of impenetrable barrier along the Mexico–U.S. border, had environmental laws waived for its construction. The impact of these walls on wildlife has been studied along with the effects it has had on the highly endangered ocelot. The solid metal and concrete fence further fragments ocelot habitat and kept the small population in Texas separate from the larger and more genetically diverse population in northern Mexico. Even though there were about 100 openings incorporated in the fence for wildlife they were much to small to allow larger animals like bobcats or coyotes through.

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Ocelot

Wildlife biologist Mitch Sternberg told Nature that “bobcats don’t go out looking for holes in fences as they travel back and forth through brushy habitats. Overall, wildlife connectivity does not exist in these sectors anymore.” It was also noted that there were major shifts in territory due the construction for the 20 bobcats that had been collared and studied. Some simply abandoned their home range and others became trapped on one side of the wall and were eventually killed on highways while looking for new territory.

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Bobcat at US-Mexico wall. Image via Triggerpit.com – Photo: ILCP photographer

In 2014 a report was released that stated the fence had little to no impact on human travel and most native species, however it had a great impact on pumas and coatis. While pumas had greater capability to roam farther in search of territory the fence meant there were less of them. With regards to coatis who are unable to move home ranges easily, researchers concluded that this could lead to a “possible collapse in their populations”. It also pointed to the fact that any impact the wall had on the behavior and populations of pumas and coatis could have serious implications for those species with whom they interact.

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Coati – Image The Dodo – Jamie McCallum University of Bristol – U.S. Mexico Border

It is estimated that the border wall has the potential to impact 111 endangered species, 108 species of migratory bird, four wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, and an unknown number of protected wetlands.

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Puma – Image The Dodo – Jamie McCallum University of Bristol – U.S. Mexico Border

El Jefe, the male jaguar who caused a stir of excitement when captured on trail camera in  2016 along the Arizona side of the border, would undoubtedly be cut off from any females attempting to come from Mexico. Even though a possible new jaguar has been photographed in the U.S. it is not considered enough to help re-establish the species. Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity told EcoWatch that “walls don’t stop people from crossing the border, but Trump’s plan would end any chance of recovery for endangered jaguars, ocelots and wolves in the border region.”

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El Jefe, is believed to have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border before making his home in Arizona. (Conservation CATalyst/Center for Biological Diversity)

In December 2016 a conservation plan was released for the jaguar, a species that was systematically exterminated in its former historical habitat, by the USFWS in which they hoped to work more closely with Mexico. The plan, which is supposed to “make it easier for agencies and organizations in the U.S. and Mexico to align their efforts at restoring jaguar habitat along the border” includes keeping corridors intact so the cats can move back and forth freely. The proposed wall along the entire 2,000 mile border with Mexico would essentially be the end to the jaguars recovery in America. It would also be an ecological disaster—ripping populations and fragile ecosystems apart. Louise Misztal, biologist and executive director of conservation non-profit Sky Island Alliance in Arizona tells Motherboard that “wide-ranging mammals like mountain lions, bears, jaguars, ocelots, need to be moving between these different mountain ranges to get to food resources and water.”

Saving predators like jaguars go beyond a feel good story about bringing an endangered species back from the brink – they like other apex predators are invaluable in their ability to help regulate, naturally, other species and the ecosystem in which they reside. When apex predators disappear from the landscape trophic cascades, the top-down regulation of ecosystems by predators which is an essential aspect of ecosystem function and well-being, are disrupted.

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Camera trap data from Arizona found that the wall did not prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States, but wholly stopped wildlife movement. Toad looking through the metal bars of part of the existing border wall. Credit: Anonymous. Image –  Seeker by Dan Millis

A number of groups and organizations have released statements opposing the proposed wall including the National Wildlife Federation and Panthera. Jesse Lasky, an assistant professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University told Live Science that “If Trump’s wall is built, it could push endangered animals and native animals with small habitats over the edge…and If the populations on the border start disappearing, the functioning of these ecosystems could be reduced.” Bryan Bird, director of the Southwest Program for Defenders of Wildlife tells Seeker that “fences are only appropriate directly adjacent to urban areas and should not be used in wildlife corridors or other ecologically sensitive areas” and, alternative monitoring devices, which minimize the impact on wildlife, such as “virtual high-tech fencing options like unmanned aerial vehicles, motion-sensors, laser barriers and infrared cameras ” should be employed to provide security.

In addition to what the wall means for wildlife, the construction of it will have a further impact on human health and the planet as it has the potential to release about “2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

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The U.S.-Mexico border is the largest human construction that has been made to divide two countries since the great wall of china.” US-Mexico wall arial – Image via Triggerpit.com – Photo: ILCP photographer

It is widely accepted that it is a negative prognosis for wildlife and ecosystems when man-made barriers are introduced, unfortunately even with this knowledge border walls and fences are on the rise. Wildlife at the current U.S.-Mexico border wall has been documented acting confused and stressed due to their daily routines being disrupted and, without further environmental impact studies, or incorporating designs in fences that allow animals to move through, researchers will not know the extent of damage or long-term implications. Along with undoing decades of conservation efforts and work any new fences will increase the number of species at risk by further isolating them on either side, pushing wildlife like the jaguar and ocelot even more precariously close to extinction while degrading our ecosystems in the process.

When Mountain Lions Come To Town

On May 6 in Omaha Nebraska, a Mountain Lion was spotted curled up beside an office complex. The big cat was seen sleeping next to an outside wall tucked in behind shrubbery, oblivious to what would come next. Even though the cat had suffered from a broken leg he showed no signs of aggression as he peacefully rested. Pictures taken from that day show a non-threatening big cat curiously looking up as people, safely locked inside the building, snapped his picture.

Omaha Police were contacted and a “public safety emergency” was called. They contacted both The Nebraska Humane Society and the Game and Parks Commission, who after assessing the situation together decided tranquilizers were not an option and that they had no alternative but to shoot and kill the sleeping cat.

“Officers placed themselves between the mountain lion and the public then attempted to humanely euthanize the mountain lion. After the first shots were fired, the mountain lion rose up and officers fired until they were certain the animal posed no further threat to public safety and to end its suffering.” 

Video from a media report surfaced and what you see is disturbing and heartbreaking and far from humane euthanasia. You never actually see the Mountain Lion who is behind the low wall, but what you do see are officers firing shots over and over. The video is about a minute long, which is the same length of time it took for them to kill the big cat. Rounds of bullets are fired, then silence as the injured and terrified cat tries in vain to stand and escape it’s torment. Then another set of bullets, followed by silence, then bullets… Witnesses report the injured cat tried to rise a few times in what could only be imagined a desperate attempt to flee it’s persecutors. By the time it was all over the Mountain Lion had been shot over 15 times.

Ultimately the shoot first ask questions later policy, stems from Nebraska’s outdated Mountain Lion Response Plan that was established after a 2003 incident in Omaha where a Mountain Lion was shot, then tranquilized and transported to a zoo. However lack of enough space on public lands and fear of them moving onto private property has prompted Nebraska to maintain a policy of not releasing Mountain Lions back into the wild.

“Decision makers must find a way to integrate time, knowledge, and heightened awareness into policy if man’s broken relationship with the wild is to be healed.” Cougar Fund – Image – Animalia-life

Responses from both The Cougar Fund and Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF) were issued condemning the killing. Fear and outdated policies clearly do not make good companions and only fuel the myth that Mountain Lions are simply nothing more than bloodthirsty killers, who are out to get humans.

Claiming that the children (who were safely inside the building) were at risk, police officers proceeded to shoot a barrage of bullets and kill the non-aggressive animal…To a gullible, trusting public it sounds as if a valiant knight, in the form of the Omaha Police Department, rode up on their white charger and rescued a crowd of children from the clutches of certain death. Too bad that scenario does not take into account any of the facts. First, the mountain lion, despite lounging next to a building full of children, showed no sign of aggression. In fact it appeared to witnesses to be sleeping when the police showed up. “ – MLF

The release from the Cougar Fund mirrored the same sentiment  “ the lion died by a cruel and unacceptable method, the videos are excruciating for us to see and hear and it is almost unbearable to imagine how much this lion suffered: not because of the protocol to kill cougars in urban areas; not because of an imminent threat to the sadly, already abused children present in Project Harmony; not because the Humane Society was unable to find a trajectory for their tranquilizers; but because fear prevented the decision makers from taking the time to carefully assess the level of threat and from their decision to use unsophisticated weaponry to kill the lion.

Susan Bass of Big Cat Rescue tells The Dodoeven injured, the mountain lion could have been saved if officials had wanted to. He could have been returned to the wild, where bones often heal on their own, she said. And while treating wild animals is difficult, BCR is currently caring for one mountain lion who had two injured legs.

So many things are wrong with what happened in Nebraska and if officials had truly exhausted all possibilities of tranquilizing and relocating the cat, why did they not bring in a trained professional to do the job quickly rather than prolonging it’s suffering by shooting the animal over a dozen times? Many people are greatly angered over this incident and rightfully so, I felt and still feel that anger when I think about it.  Sadly however this not an isolated incident. When Mountain Lions come to town, they generally do not get a warm welcome.

I recall a similar event that occurred last September in Canada when Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers shot and killed a Mountain Lion outside of the South Calgary Health campus for “public safety” reasons. Witnesses in this case had also reported that the cat was just “snoozing in the grass”.

Cougar killed in Calgary April 2014.CBC

Canada this goes on in our backyard to we are not immune, what happened in Nebraska has happened here. Mountain Lion shot in Calgary – Image – CBC News

The scenario in Calgary is disturbingly similar to that of Nebraska and differs only in that there is video of the animal being shot. It was recorded by someone inside the building that day and is truly shocking, at the time it made me cry. It is a terrible act that needs to be acknowledged if we are to address how we live with and treat wildlife like Mountain Lions. Ensuring our wildlife agencies are prepared to handle situations like this without resorting to simply killing an animal is vital.

Please be aware this video is graphic and disturbing

Like Nebraska, the killing drew criticism from city residents and animal lovers, however a review later cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. After the shooting someone marked the spot where the cat was killed with a cross, then later with flowers.

Mountain Lions everywhere face a multitude of problems including habitat loss and fragmentation; hunting by farmers protecting their livestock; sport hunting; vehicular deaths; and genetic inbreeding. Death by willful ignorance on our part, shouldn’t be on the list.

Finally I have to address the elephant in the room. It had been practically screaming at me the whole time I followed this story, how could I see it and not the officials in Nebraska? It had to do with Los Angeles and P-22. After the Mountain Lion had taken up residence in the crawl space of a house in a highly populated area, local wildlife officials worked to get him safely out without resorting to lethal methods. He wasn’t harmed and neither were any humans.

How to help mountain lions

Image - Wikipedia

“The bottom line is that some Nebraskan decision makers have let unrealistic fear guide their policies decisions. By hiding behind the excuse of public safety they can act as if they did something noble, and do not have to admit that they might be wrong. It’s time to pull the blind from the eyes of the public and for them to demand accountability – not excuses – for these so-called acts of public safety from those in authority.” – Mountain Lion Foundation

Educate yourself and others. Both MLF and The Cougar Fund offer numerous resources so you can get properly informed on the facts, these organizations are both doing great work and are willing to help you, help Mountain Lions.

Get involved where you live by finding out who the policy makers are and politely and respectfully ask them to protect these big cats by adopting up-to-date policies that will enable them to better handle situations like what happened in Nebraska.

Whenever I read about these tragic events I lose faith in my species, more and more I believe it’s the wildlife that needs protection from us and not the other way around. Changing long-held beliefs and busting myths surrounding predators like Mountain Lions is not going to be easy, but it’s something we need to do before they disappear from the landscape for good.

For more on North America’s Lion, continue to watch this space.    

The Not So Magic Kingdom

“Woman Denied Entry At Disney’s Magic Kingdom For Trying To Bring In Baby Bengal Tiger.”

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The not so Magic Kingdom?

Once the shock wore off, the sadness and frustration set in. The headline was attention grabbing and got a reaction, from myself and many others, but that’s whats headlines are for right? As soon as I could I looked up the story which came from the Inquisitor online.  According to the article a guest, who remains unidentified, tried to bring her “pet” baby Bengal Tiger into the theme park on Monday and was turned away by staff. While Disney World does allow entry for service animals Bengal Tigers of any size, do not qualify.

The article then goes on to say that  “After a bit or arguing, the Central Florida Zoo was called to retrieve the baby Bengal Tiger until the end of the woman’s vacation…After a long time period of speaking about the Tiger and reassuring her that the animal would be well treated and taken care of during her time in Walt Disney World, the woman did agree to let the animal caretakers from the Central Florida Zoo care for it.

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Tiger cubs are not pets. They grow up and become displaced, unwanted and abused with nowhere to go, if they are lucky they will make it to a reputable sanctuary like Big Cat Rescue – Image Wikipedia

It was reported in the article that the cub was in the care of the Central Florida Zoo and that Disney would not comment any further. Many people were in an uproar and rightfully so, private ownership of big cats, especially in the US is a big problem. It is currently estimated that up to 10,000 big cats like tigers, lions and cougars are kept captive in the US by private owners in backyards and roadside zoos.

People are often not able to manage these wild animals once they’re fully grown. Consequently, the animals are poorly fed, and left to spend their entire lives in cages with barely enough room to move. Not only is this inhumane, it also is a great threat to public safety.” – IFAW

A case of mistaken Identity? Now this is where the story gets a little spotted – literally. Upon further reading I noticed what was not mentioned when the story first started making the rounds. Here the Inquisitor says “While Cast Members at Disney did originally say that it was a “baby Bengal tiger,” the Central Florida Zoo let it be known that it was actually a “baby Bengal cat” which was being cared for by the guest looking to enter Magic Kingdom.

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Spotted! It’s a Bengal…cat…kitten…not a Bengal Tiger – Image Wikipedia

I came across a thread in the online forum WDWMagic.com where someone got to the bottom of this mystery. Post #64 on the page is by a person who works at the Orlando news station WKMG Local 6. They reached out to both Disney PR, who hadn’t heard about the incident, and the Central Florida Zoo who confirmed “The animal is not a Bengal tiger; it is a ten-day old Bengal cat, which is basically a domestic species…the Disney guests who brought it with them on vacation are hand-rearing the animal at present. The animal will be returned to them tomorrow.

A few lessons here: don’t bring your pets to a theme park, you can’t always believe things you read on the internet, and when in doubt do your research.

All kidding aside, what good can come out of this? A lot of people were shocked and angered by the very idea that a random person could own a Bengal Tiger and, if that helps open up a greater dialogue on the very real crisis surrounding private ownership of big cats, then maybe this is still a story worth sharing.

For further reading on private ownership of big cats and how to help check out:

Cat Crossings

There are less than 50 Ocelots estimated remaining in the US, concentrated primarily around Laguna Atascosa and on private lands in Texas, however the combination of vehicles and urban development have become one of the greatest threats to this endangered cat.

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Ocelots, a species precariously close to being extinct in the US – Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Creative

The death of any of these rare cats is considered devastating and when one was killed by a vehicle on a Texas state Highway south of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the Rio Grand Valley in November 2013, it was taken very seriously. The cat was identified as Ocelot Male 276 and had been “watched with trepidation as he crisscrossed a patchwork of cotton fields and convenience stores, culverts and roadways, seeking to establish a territory and find a mate.

Ocelots are so beautiful and so rare, and to lose so many of these animals to vehicular collision just seems senseless.” said refuge manager Boyd Blihovde in an article published by National Geographic. “The number one cause of Ocelot deaths in the US today is vehicular. Six of the 14 cats tracked with radio telemetry by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Laguna Atascosa biologists have been killed by vehicles. As Blihovde puts it, “Wildcats and highways don’t mix.” While vehicles aren’t solely responsible for the damage they are helping to deliver a deadly blow to the species when coupled with other factors like habitat loss and fragmentation.

Some 95 percent of the cats native habitat in the US has been converted to agriculture or become urban sprawl.” 

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Humans have rapidly created a deadly maze in which Ocelots must try to navigate to survive  – Photo Nature.org

The space requirements needed for these cats to recover properly is estimated to be one million acres and while the US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken steps to help the Ocelot it has fallen short in its promise to secure land to create habitats and corridors for the cat. Ultimately this means that the responsibility has and will fall with the people as 95% of land in Texas is privately owned. “Landowner incentives will be required and may offer the best hope to conserve the species.”

Cat Crossings

The news for Ocelots seems rather grim but wildlife crossings, like the one pictured below, are scheduled to be built in 2016 and will help the cats avoid vehicles, busy highways and importantly connect them safely to new territory.

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Conserving and connecting habitat for ocelots is critical to minimizing mortality risk and improving the species ability to flourish. – Photo USFWS

New Blood

When the images of a kitten appeared on the trail camera in the Laguna Atascosa Refuge last March the photos brought hope and relief as each new kitten means the species has a chance. The kitten who is thought to be female, will hopefully breed successfully giving a much-needed boost to the US Ocelot population.

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A new Ocelot kitten takes a selfie at the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge – Photo  US Fish & Wildlife

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The black-and-white trail camera image of the 2 month-old baby ocelot at the Wildlife Refuge, which houses one of only two breeding populations of the mid-sized wild cats in the US – Photo US Fish & Wildlife

How you can help

In honor of Ocelot Conservation Day today, please ask the US Fish and Wildlife Service to do more for these cats by signing and sharing this Care2 petition. Ocelots desperately need our help and by giving them the protection and habitat to roam, we can ensure they are around for many years to come.

Little Cat vs Big Mine

When a photograph of a lone male Ocelot was snapped south of Tucson Arizona, in the Santa Rita Mountains last year it was cause for celebration and controversy. It turns out that this protected and endangered wildcat was photographed in an area where a Canadian based mining company had planned to build the US 3rd largest open-pit copper mine.

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The male ocelot, photographed on May 14, is the fifth to be documented in Arizona over the past five years.Source Tuscon.com

The Ocelot was photographed twice in 2014 with a remote-sensor camera operated by the University of Arizona, the same camera that had also taken pictures of an adult male Jaguar near the mine site.

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The Santa Rita jaguar…the only known jaguar in the US roams the Santa Rita mountains, a large portion of which would be destroyed by the Rosemont Copper project.Source Rosemont Mine Truth

The discovery of the Ocelot in April prompted the US Fish and Wildlife Service to reexamine its 2013 biological opinion that the Rosemont Copper mine would not unduly harm habitat for endangered species in the area, including the only known Jaguar in the USsource LA Times

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Conservationists fear a proposed copper mine would destroy important habitat for this endangered ocelot, jaguar in southern Arizona. (US Fish and Wildlife Service / University of Arizona) – Source LA Times

In the article published by the LA Times conservationists led by the Center for Biological Diversity based in Tucson said they have their minds made up. “The science is clear,” said Randy Serraglio, a spokesman for the center. “The Rosemont mine cannot coexist with Jaguars, Ocelots and other endangered wildlife whose survival is on the line. Beyond that, we may be witnessing the results of the good work the USFWS has done by making it illegal to kill jaguars and Ocelots,” he said. “Why would we want to turn our backs on that?”

A final decision has not been made, but the Rosemont copper mine faces obvious opposition for the devastating impacts it would have on wildlife, the water, air and the economy. A Facebook community called Rosemont Mine Truth was established and aims to provide the facts, source documents and truth behind this project.

Only time will tell if this Ocelot will be able to help put a stop to the Rosemont mine project and in a story of little cat vs big mine, I know exactly who I’m rooting for.

The Dwarf Leopard

In honor of the upcoming Ocelot Conservation Day, which is celebrated in the US on March 7, I will be dedicating this weeks posts to the beautiful little wild cat which is also known as The Dwarf Leopard.

The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is part of the genus Leopardus, which also includes the  Margay, and is twice the size of the average house cat.

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All of the cats in Leopardus genus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the Ocelot being the biggest.

The fur of a Ocelot resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, in the 1970’s and 80’s hundreds of thousands of Ocelot were killed for their fur.

Appearance

  • Coat pattern can be cream, reddish-brown or grayish marked with black rosettes
  • The chain like blotches are bordered with black but have a lighter colored center and run the entire length of the cat
  • The underside is white and single and white spots, called ocelli, appear on the backs of the ears
  • Two black stripes line both sides of the face, and the long tail is banded by black

Behavior

  • Mostly nocturnal and very territorial, Ocelots sometimes fight to the death for territory which they mark with urine
  • They are solitary, usually only coming together to mate but may occasionally share a spot during the day with another Ocelot of the same-sex as they rest in trees or other dense foliage
  • The Ocelot hunts during the night and eats mostly small animals including lizards, frogs, crabs and birds. Fish along with rodents, rabbits, and opossums form the largest part of the diet
  • Studies suggest that Ocelots follow and find prey via odor trails
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The ocelot also has very good vision, including night vision

Breeding and Babies

  • Ocelots typically breed only once every other year but mating can occur at any time of year
  • After mating, the female will find a den in a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or a dense (preferably thorny) thicket
  • Usually a single kitten is born, after about 79 to 82 days, with its eyes closed and a thin covering of hair
  • Ocelot kittens grow quite slowly and do not open their eyes for 15 to 18 days and begin to leave the den at three months
  • They can remain with their mother for up to two years, before leaving to establish their own territory
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Small litter size and relative infrequency of breeding make the Ocelot particularly vulnerable to population loss – ImageUSFWS Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Territory and Range

  • They are found in tropical forest, thorn forest, mangrove swamps and savanna
  • The Ocelot is distributed over South and Central America (It is thought to be extinct in Uruguay) and Mexico, but have been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean
  • The Ocelot once inhabited areas of the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas, and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas
  • In the United States, it currently ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona
  • An Ocelot was photographed in the mountains of  Arizona in 2009, the first evidence of the felines presence in the state

Challenges and Threats  – Small litter size, high infant mortality, deforestation and habitat destruction

  • In the US most surviving Texas Ocelots are in the shrub-lands at or near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge where only 30-35 are estimated to remain
  • The Ocelots continued presence in the US is questionable, as a result largely of the introduction of dogs, being shot by ranchers, the loss of habitat, and the introduction of highways
  • Young male Ocelots are frequently killed by cars during their search for a territory

Listed in 1982 as endangered, the Ocelot is protected by the Endangered Species Act and is also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Commercial trade of CITES Appendix I species is strictly prohibited – source USFWS

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Ocelots can live for up to 20 years in captivity

Pets

  • Sadly like many wildcats, Ocelots had been, and may still likely be, kept as pets
  • Salvador Dalí frequently traveled with his pet ocelot Babou, even bringing the cat aboard the luxury ocean liner SS France
  • Musician Gram Parsons kept an ocelot as a pet in the back yard swimming pool area of his family’s Winter Haven Florida home in the mid 60’s

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Fun Fact: The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted the ocelot in their art

Source – Feline Conservation Federation

Have You Spoken Up For Lions?

This year I took part in, and helped organize the Global March For Lions Toronto event. It was a great day with lots of people coming out to bring awareness to the practice of Canned Hunting and the plight of African Lions who are being bred in captivity only to be killed by trophy hunters.

This is a short video from the event day and it tells you why we were out braving the Canadian cold.

To all readers, and especially if you are in the USA, please take time to contact the USFWS to ask them to ban all importation of Lion Trophies into the USA and to list the African Lion as Endangered. Killing is not conservation and allowing hunting of Lions will not save them.

Comments are being received here until January 27, 2015 so please speak up and share widely to help prevent this magnificent species from heading into extinction.