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Thu May 21, 2020, 07:38 AM

Meet the Ocelot Whisperer

Under the thin cover of an early-morning mist on a ranch not far from the South Texas coast, documentary filmmaker Ben Masters settles a worn felt cowboy hat on his head and cinches up a backpack full of gear. After he reminds his small team gathered on the side of a gravel road to move quietly, they duck into the bristling scrub, coyotes yipping in the distance. “Let’s do it! Let’s go find some ocelots!” he shout-whispers.

Thirty-one-year-old Masters is best known for his award-winning 2019 documentary The River and the Wall, which explored the potential impact of a border wall on the region’s terrain, wildlife, and residents. To make the film, he and four fellow adventurers traveled the 1,200 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico, via mountain bike, horse, canoe, and foot. Now he’s working on two new documentaries: a short film focusing on the small population of ocelots that survives in this South Texas thicket and a feature-length project highlighting some of the state’s most captivating fauna, from the black bears and mountain lions of West Texas to the whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, and the bison, alligator gar, and other species in between.

“Growing up and living here, I always thought the wild was this place in Africa. But we have some of the most phenomenal wildlife spectacles in Texas,” says Masters. Today, he is fixated on ocelots—small, sleek cats that subsist on a diet of wood rats, birds, rabbits, and lizards. The cats rarely show themselves. Even Masters has yet to see an ocelot in the wild, except on video footage he’s captured on the remote cameras he began planting in locations around the brush on this private ranch in Willacy County last July. “It’s kind of like seeing Bigfoot, if Bigfoot were the most beautiful species in the world,” is how he puts it.

Adult ocelots weigh about thirty pounds, and most live in dense, brush-covered habitat from South America to Mexico. They once roamed parts of the United States, too, from this corner of Texas all the way to Louisiana and Arkansas. But by the sixties, development, ranching, hunting, the fur and pet trades, and loss of habitat drove them to the brink of extinction. Today, biologists estimate that just fifty to eighty of the cats survive in the United States. A handful live in southern Arizona. The rest are in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, in two separate populations centered about twenty miles apart: the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the 27,000-acre El Sauz ranch, where Masters is focusing his research. Owned by the San Antonio–based East Foundation, the ranch was one of six South Texas properties set aside for environmental research and education by cattleman and wildlife advocate Robert C. East, who died in 2007.

Read more: https://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/ben-masters-ocelot-whisperer/


A female ocelot captured by one of Masters’s remote cameras in March.
Courtesy of Ben Masters/Fin & Fur Films

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Reply Meet the Ocelot Whisperer (Original post)
TexasTowelie May 21 OP
The Velveteen Ocelot May 21 #1
lark May 21 #2
magicarpet May 21 #3
TexasTowelie May 21 #4
magicarpet May 22 #5
TexasTowelie May 22 #6
magicarpet May 22 #7
LeftInTX May 22 #8

Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Thu May 21, 2020, 07:49 AM

1. Yay for the ocelots!

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Thu May 21, 2020, 09:22 AM

2. Ocelots are such gorgeous creatures!

Hope this research can help them.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Thu May 21, 2020, 08:04 PM

3. Too much makeup around the eyes.

Does she use Revlon or Maybelline ?

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Response to magicarpet (Reply #3)

Thu May 21, 2020, 10:53 PM

4. I suspected that a catty remark would come along.

You're taking a risk with those claws and keep in mind that nail salons have been closed for a couple of months.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #4)

Fri May 22, 2020, 08:00 AM

5. Dats true,... snide remark retracted...

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Response to magicarpet (Reply #5)

Fri May 22, 2020, 08:06 AM

6. I was joking with you

with the "catty" remark since the thread was about cats. We're cool.

It does look like the ocelot is using an eyeliner too.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Reply #6)

Fri May 22, 2020, 08:12 AM

7. Yes,.. I am aware,...

All is good,... have a wonderful day.

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Response to TexasTowelie (Original post)

Fri May 22, 2020, 05:06 PM

8. I often wonder if we could bring in breeding populations from SA?

They aren't endangered down there...

We did that with fountain darters in New Braunfels..LOL (They went extinct, so we brought in an other specie from San Marcos)

Of course, habits need to change need to change in order for ocelots to increase population.

I wonder how the bobcat population is in South Texas? I've read the bobcats are in decline in some parts of the US, but they aren't considered endangered except in a few areas. The habitats of both ocelots and bobcats are about the same.

http://wild-wonderings.blogspot.com/2016/09/competition-between-ocelots-and-bobcats.html

https://utrgv-ir.tdl.org/handle/2152.6/701

(Although Trump's wall is probably the biggest threat, even if we bring in more ocelots) Bobcats are numerous in both Texas, US and Mexico, while ocelots exist only in deep South Texas and along the coast of Mexico.

Ocelot:




Bobcat:

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