Texas’ apex predators: Bobcats, coyotes, and ocelots, oh my!

Texas’ apex predators: Bobcats, coyotes, and ocelots, oh my!

When studying the life sciences, there are a lot of in-depth concepts to take in. Depending on the the type of science you are studying, biology vs. evolution, for example, you may even have to learn a handful of mathematical formulas to fully appreciate the material. Here, we are just having a light-hearted overview of the life sciences, so a light serving of sativa will do just fine.

In my experience, sativa helps me to not get lost in wordy texts (reading that is not broken up by graphics/tables or formulas) and keep my mind sharp and able to take in all relevant information. Grinding about 60mg (less than 1/4 of a 1g bud) of sativa and smoking just a small pinch of that for over a 3-5hr period is perfect for maintaining a healthy attention span for learning.

Black Flower Science Co. does not claim to be a medical professional and does not offer recommendations as a substitute for medical advice. All advice and recommendations are based on personal experience of the benefits of medical marijuana. If you are experiencing severe or declining mental health symptoms, please seek the advice of a medical professional.

Coyotes (Canis latrans) and bobcats (Lynx rufus) are commonly known species across the United States. They are both widely loved and unfortunately disdained, yet, they persist alongside rural and urban communities, nonetheless. When left to their devices in either of these habitats, along with natural landscapes, opportunities for observing phenomenal wildlife interactions are ever-present.

Yet, there is one additional species that communes with America’s Song Dog and the evasive lynx relative, one that most U.S. residents don’t realize shares their soil: the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). This little feline is so infamous in its effects on sympatric (sharing the same habitat) cousins, the jaguarundi and Southern tiger cats, that it has a hypothesis named after it, the “Pardalis Effect.”

Given the competitive efficiency of each of these infamously fierce animals, scientists were intrigued to pursue these apex predators and find out for themselves, “How do coyotes, bobcats, and ocelots share space with one another in the wild?”

Interactions Between an Endangered Feline and an Overabundant Canine

The relationships between coyotes and bobcats have been exhaustively studied throughout American history. And why not! These two exist everywhere across the U.S.! Far less attention has been paid to the ecological exchanges between ocelots and these two Western critters.

Although the ocelot is, generally, considered to be a species of Least Concern, according to the IUCN Red List, it is categorized as Federally Endangered in the United States. Why? Its natural range has been severely reduced in this country, restricting it only to its “Ranch population” in Willacy and Kenedy counties, and the “Refuge population” in Cameron County.

A peek into the ocelot’s natural life may give conservation managers a clue as to how they can help this breathtaking animal make a strong comeback.

International Society for Endangered Cats

Getting to Know the Cats and Dogs: How They Did It

Jason Lombardi and colleagues dedicated several years to uncover the mysteries of this furtive guild (a group of animals with similar ecological functions: predators, prey, etc.). Between May 2011 and March 2018, they deployed camera traps and monitored the habitat and spatial distribution of the ocelot-bobcat-coyote triangle of South Texas.

Some of their primary predictions included:

  • Bobcat and ocelot populations would be noticeably low if there were detectable coyotes in the area.
  • Each species would show distinct preferences for habitat characteristics, allowing them to coexist without constant interference (direct) competition.
  • There would be seasonal changes in the habitat preferences of all three animals.

The study area’s habitat, El Sauz Ranch, was overflowing with awe-inspiring natural scenes. Of the four primary ecosystems archetypes, there were herbaceous grasslands and prairies, riparian landscapes adjacent to lagunas and aqueducts, ever-shifting dunes, and mesquite and oak forests.

Animal Welfare Institute

The terrain presented a challenge to accessing the elusive predators, but not an impossible one. After parsing through more than 250,000 camera trap photos (phew!), the team had uncovered:

  • 2,000+ coyote sightings
  • 1,529 bobcat sightings
  • 1,076 ocelot sightings

Looks like all that dense vegetation really stole the show in the hundreds of thousands of camera trap images (as always)! Once the study was all said and done, the team was surprised to find that coyote presence, in fact, did not result in the reduced presence of either ocelots or bobcats. Instead, the species co-occurred quite well together.

The species’ inclination to show up in a given area was primarily influenced by seasonal changes, although they did find that the odds of an ocelot occurring in one area was 4-5x higher if the area were also inhabited by bobcats (and vice versa). For both ocelots and bobcats, the research team discovered another stunning trend: The two felines were 6-7x more likely to occur in an area where coyotes also lived.

City of Mukilteo

Applying this Research to Future Conservation Initiatives

Studies of the past have rarely focused on the hidden life of ocelots in the United States. Now that Lombardi and his colleagues have shed light on habitat space use of this animal as it relates to sympatric carnivores, conservation managers are much better equipped to tailor their initiatives to ocelot behavior.

This data is especially relevant to management on rangelands since the ocelot almost only occurs in human-managed populations in the U.S. What does the future hold for this locally endangered cat? Although we can’t know for sure, with this knowledge, it’s looking just a little brighter.

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