By the mid-1900s, ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) in Texas became isolated as 2 known subpopulations on Yturria Ranch (Yturria) in Willacy County (Willacy), and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge (LANWR) in Cameron County (Cameron), Texas. An additional subpopulation has recently been surveyed on East El Sauz Ranch (East), Willacy County. My study consisted of 3 separate components that may be used to determine future conservation strategies for this endangered felid. First, I assessed genetic diversity, differentiation, dispersal, and the extent of inbreeding. Ocelots on East had the highest diversity, whereas Cameron lost diversity and was most differentiated from Willacy. Differentiation was significant but lower between Yturria and East, and dispersal occurred between sites. No first generation migrants were detected between Willacy and Cameron, but 1 individual captured in Cameron in 2000 had possible immigrant ancestry and a sire from Yturria. All 3 subpopulations contained inbred relationships. Though intermittent dispersal occurred between Yturria and East, there was essentially no dispersal between Willacy and Cameron. Translocation between the subpopulations is a viable conservation strategy. Second, I measured the response of ocelot prey (i.e., rodents) to drought and rainfall on Yturria and LANWR. Trap success on Yturria indicated that even with long-term, severe drought conditions in the region, local habitat patches maintained stable rodent populations because the site received small periodic rainfall events. Rodent population response was brief on LANWR, which did not receive localized rainfall events. Trap success was higher on sites designated as primary areas for translocated ocelot release, compared to secondary sites. In general, increasing rainfall and lower drought led to increased trap success on LANWR, but without additional rainfall pulses, the response was brief. Third, I examined fine-scale movement patterns (i.e., tortuosity) of sympatric bobcats (Lynx rufus) in fragmented brush strips on King Ranch, Kleberg County, Texas. Male and female bobcats used home ranges at different scales and did not seem to select for brush strips. Male bobcats had larger home ranges and less tortuous movements, whereas female bobcats had smaller home ranges and more tortuous movements.
February 6, 2014
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