Because of its sheer size and geographic location, Texas is one of the most biologically diverse states in the United States. It is home to ten different ecoregions, and has the second highest mammal diversity after California.
Included in this mammal diversity are five species of wild cats that either currently or historically call Texas home: jaguar, mountain lion, bobcat, ocelot, and jaguarundi. In fact, only the Canada lynx never existed here as it’s likely just too hot.
Of these Texas cats, three are endangered in the United States: the jaguar, the ocelot, and the jaguarundi. The mountain lion and the bobcat have a conservation status of Least Concern and are classified as nongame animals in Texas. Nongame species have no protection.
The purpose of carnivores in nature, including our Texas cats, is well known to wildlife biologists and ecologists. Referred to as keystone or flagship species, these top-down regulators control populations of large herbivores (deer, for example) and other animals from proliferating and help prevent the resulting vegetation degradation caused by these herbivores. In turn, healthy and sufficient vegetation provides habitat for birds and amphibians. Without carnivores, ecosystems can be negatively altered.
The breadth of our state, its complex natural environment, and an amazing array of wildlife make it vital that we maintain a balance and conserve our natural assets.