While we generally think of 'big cats' in terms of Africa and Asia, America has its own versions but they are rapidly becoming extinct. The Florida Panther (Cougar) has increased to 160 from a low of 20 over the last couple of decades. Mountain Lions in the West number about 30,000. The number of Jaguars in America is unknown but they are highly endangered. Bobcats have the best numbers with over 700,000 still existing.
A highly endangered 'American big cat' is the Ocelot with only about 50 of them remaining in Texas. Richard Moore reports for ValleyCentral.com:
Southernmost Texas is the only place in the United States with a breeding population of endangered ocelots estimated to number less than 50 in the wild, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with saving the rare cats.
Mitch Sternberg, Lead Ocelot Biologist USFWS, said, “Fish and Wildlife Service has the responsibility thru the Endangered Species Act to form some plans and teams for most endangered species. For the ocelot, we have the ocelot recovery team.”
In addition to preserving critical habitat and working with the Texas Department of Transportation to build ocelot-crossing sites beneath highways, the ocelot recovery team is also concerned with declining genetic diversity of the isolated South Texas population.
Sternberg said, “Our plans are to try and reinvigorate the genetics of Texas ocelots by trying to make some connections with some ocelots in Mexico.”
There are two small populations of ocelots on private lands in deep South Texas and an estimated 14 cats on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.