Willacy County ranch looks to get landowners involved in new ocelot reintroduction plan

4 weeks 15 hours 38 minutes ago Wednesday, March 20 2024 Mar 20, 2024 March 20, 2024 11:12 PM March 20, 2024 in News - Local

A 50,000-acre ranch in Willacy County is home to the remaining wild American ocelots.

On Tuesday, the East Foundation-El Sauz Ranch signed an agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service to start administering a program that's going to protect and expand the range of ocelots throughout South Texas.

The Ocelot Safe Harbor Agreement provides leeway from the government to landowners in South Texas for the management of ocelots.

READ MORE: Everything we know about the ocelot rewilding plan in South Texas

“They simply need to be willing and motivated to allow ocelots to disperse onto their property, should the ocelots choose to do that,” East Foundation Chief Science Officer Dr. Jason Sawyer said.

Several partner agencies are working to breed new ocelots under controlled conditions.

Those ocelots will be introduced to the San Antonio Viejo Ranch in Jim Hogg County, which is also owned by the East Foundation.

Experts expect those reintroduced ocelots will migrate into neighboring counties in South Texas.

RELATED STORY: Gladys Porter Zoo rebuilding ocelot population through artificial insemination

“Ocelots don't recognize the boundary of a ranch, they don't know where one ranch ends and another ranch begins,” Texas A&M Kingsville ocelot researcher Mike Tewes said. “The safe harbor provides the kind of assurance to other landowners that they don't have to worry about some possible negative impact from an endangered species."

The East Foundation is now sharing that information on the safe harbor agreement with the community for landowners to decide if they want to participate.

Watch the video above for the full story. 

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