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. 

Meet the Native Cats of Texas

Jaguarundi

Jaguarundi

Jaguarundi – Herpailurus yaguarondi The jaguarundi shares characteristics with the ocelot; both live in far south Texas and consume similar prey species consisting of rabbits, small birds, and rodents. Not much larger than a house cat, the jaguarundi is smaller

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jaguar

Jaguar

Jaguar – Panthera onca The jaguar is a member of the genus Panthera, just like tigers, lions, and leopards. Jaguars, like leopards, may be spotted or melanistic (black), although the spots in both are still evident in daylight. Many confuse

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Ocelot

Ocelot

Ocelot – Leopardus pardalis The beautiful ocelot is a spotted and striped cat that now occupies a reduced habitat in far south Texas, close to the cities of Brownsville and Harlingen. The cat’s markings are unique; no two cats have

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bobcat

Bobcat

Bobcat – Lynx rufus Named because of their short tails, bobcats exist throughout most of the United States, southern Canada, and the northern half of Mexico. They are abundant in Texas and are comprised of one subspecies, Lynx rufus texensis. Twelve subspecies

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mountain lion

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion – Puma concolor Mountain lions, as they’re commonly called in the West, are also known as cougars, pumas, and panthers. They are large cats. Males commonly weigh 110 – 232 pounds, while females range from 79 – 132 pounds. Very nimble climbers

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