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Special Collections & University Archives: Native Cats

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LRGV Native Cats Research Guide

Native Cats Research Guide


This research guide provides information related to cats (Felidae) native to the lower Rio Grande Valley region of Texas, including native cat species populations in Texas, which are threatened by habitat loss and road killing. The purpose of this research guide is to offer students access to primary and secondary source materials found within the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley library as well as external resources.  


The native wildlife cats (Felidae) of the Rio Grande Valley are an endangered species due to encroachment on their natural habitats from land use, agriculture and urban development. In deep South Texas, native cat species are protected by Texas Parks & Wildlife, Santa and National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Texas Department of Transportation. In particular, private land and ranch owners are also working together with state and federal agencies to protect the ocelot’s population.

The Yturria Ranch is located north of Raymondville, Willacy County on which Frank Yturria set aside 2,500 acres for the recovery and protection ocelots. In so doing, the Yturrias have preserved the native brushlands critical to the survival and protection of the species. (See the Yturria Family Research Guide for more information.)

LRGV Native Cat Species

Black and white photograph of an ocelot


The ocelot is considered the most beautiful native cat of Texas. Its coat color ranges from a very light yellow to a dark reddish-grey, small spots appear on the head, along with two black stripes on each cheek, and four or five black stripes along the animal's neck. The ocelot’s underside is light to white in color and spotted with black hair. The adult male weighs 15–30 pounds and is 30–41 inches in length, while the female weighs between 20–35 pounds and measures 18 inches long. Their diet consists of rabbits, rats, mice, snakes, rodents, fish, and frogs. The ocelot’s eyes have a special layer that collects light and improves their ability to see in the dark. These animals live in the thick brushlands, and the loss of their native habitat is threatened by development of land and roads.

Photograph of a bobcat


The bobcat is a reddish-brown cat with black bars on its forelegs and a stubby tail.  As an adult male can weight from 25 to 30 pounds, is 20 to 35 inches in length and stands 12 to 24 inches in height. The bobcat's diet consists of wood rats, squirrels, mice, rabbits, songbirds, rodents, and occasionally kill a deer to eat.  They also prey on domestic sheep, goats, and poultry.  The bobcat is the only native Texas cat that is sought for its fur coat. Bobcats are highly adapted to their region and can cope with the inroads of human settlement.

Mountain Lion

The mountain lion is an unspotted cat. It is slender with a small head and a long tail.  Its fur is light, brown color that a times it can appear gray and almost black.  As an adult male can weight from 70-170 pounds and length 8 feet and 6 inches.  The mountain lion’s food consists of deer, wild hogs, rabbits, jackrabbits, javelinas, rodents, dogs, and livestock.  A large portion of the mountain lions in South Texas live in the brushlands.  (Photo by Hari Viswanathan)


The jaguarundi is a solid color, either rusty brown or charcoal gray.  This cat is slightly larger than a domestic cat.  As an adult male can weight 8 to 16 pounds and its length 12 to 20 inches.  The jaguarundi’s food consists of rats, mice, birds, rabbits, and poultry. They hunt during the early morning and evening.  The jaguarundis that live in Southern Texas were cacti, mesquite, bushes, or small trees.  The jaguarundis are now extinct in Texas. (Image Source: TPWD)

Primary and Secondary Sources

Physical Holdings

Reference Files (ELIBR 0062)

Collection contains articles, clippings, flyers, brochures, maps, and other ephemera collected by the Library Special Collections on topics concerning the Lower Rio Grande Valley Collection pertaining to the geographic region of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. Many of these materials are protected by U.S. Copyright Law.

Natural History [QH] - US FISH and WILDLIFE Service - Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (3 Files)

National History [QH] -  US FISH and WILDLIFE Services - Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 

Eligio (Kika) de la Garza Congressional Papers (ELIBR - 0078)

The Congressional Papers of Eligio "Kika" de la Garza consist of approximately 425 linear feet of materials dating from 1965 - 1996. The bulk of the papers date from 1965-1980 and 1989-1996. The papers were created during Kika de la Garza's time as an elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 - 1996, representing the 15th Congressional District in South Texas.

Interior, Dept of - Fish & Wildlife Service, Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge, 1975 - 1976

Joe Ideker Collection (ELIBR-0057), Box #4. 

Research papers of Joe Ideker relating to native plants and wildlife of the Rio Grande Valley. Box #4 contains literature, letters, memos, notes, publications, photos, and maps.

Digital Holdings

Thesis: Analysis of Variables Related to Corridor Use by Ocelots and Bobcats in South Texas

Written by Sarah E. Nordlof (2015). Biologists estimate that less than 50 endangered ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) remain in the United States, restricted to two small populations in Cameron and Willacy Counties located in deep south Texas. Conversely, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are abundant in south Texas; however, two of the biggest threats to both species are vehicle collisions and habitat fragmentation. To mitigate these threats, the installation of wildlife crossings has been proposed to decrease the number of road mortalities, and wildlife corridors have been suggested as a useful tool for providing increased habitat connectivity. However, research on ocelot use of corridors and wildlife crossings in Texas is severely lacking. Due to overlap in daily activity, diet, and habitat, ocelots and bobcats may be exhibiting competition over resources where space to coexist without conflict is limited.

Kika de la Garza Congressional Papers

Selected newsletters and news releases from the Kika de la Garza Congressional Papers. Kika de la Garza served as Congressman for the 15th Congressional District of Texas from 1965-1996. This digitization project was funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Newsletter - 1984-02-23

Newsletter - 1989-02-02

Research Compiled by Lisa Huerta

Maria I. (Lisa) Huerta is a library assistant at UTRGV University Library Special Collections & Archives. She has over 20 years experience working in a academic library, starting with an internship at UTPA Special Collections and Archives in 1996. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a minor in history (UTPA 1997).  Lisa enjoys assisting students and patrons with local history research and genealogy. She is particularly proud of her work with cataloging, processing, and digitizing the LRGV map collection.

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External Resources and Organizations

Texas Parks & Wildlife

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department is a Texas state agency that oversees and protects wildlife and their habitats. In addition, the agency is responsible for managing the state's parks and historical areas.

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,088-acre National Wildlife Refuge situated along the banks of the Rio Grande, south of Alamo in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, in Hidalgo County, South Texas. The wildlife refuge was established for the protection of migratory birds in 1943.

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The 98,000-acre refuge is located almost entirely in Cameron County, Texas (near Harlingen), although a very small part of its northernmost point extends into southern Willacy County.