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Jo Clifton is the Politics Editor for the Austin Monitor.
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Suit targets killing of ocelots in Texas, Arizona
Thursday, October 6, 2016 by Jo Clifton
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Animal Welfare Institute filed suit this week to protect an endangered cat found in Texas and Arizona. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Arizona, activities by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are killing the endangered ocelot. The two groups are suing over the department’s long-running program to kill coyotes, bears, bobcats and other predator species. The program results in the unintended deaths of the ocelots, according to the lawsuit. Tara Zuardo, a wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute, said in a written statement, “The ocelot population is crumbling at the feet of (the Department of Agriculture’s) indiscriminate and haphazard wildlife-killing activities. With this lawsuit, we are sending a message” to the agriculture department “that its tactics should not come at the expense of the future of this critically endangered species.” The plaintiffs say the agriculture department should have consulted with the Fish & Wildlife Service, especially given new scientific information that has emerged since the 1990s, the last time an environmental assessment was conducted on the program. It is the job of the Fish & Wildlife Service to enforce the endangered species act, and the plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to force the two agencies to work together to resolve the issue. Attorney Collette Adkins, who represents the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Austin Monitor that the Department of Agriculture “is authorized to conduct activities throughout the state of Texas, but the predator-killing activities in the program’s ‘Corpus Christi District’ are of concern to this lawsuit because that is where ocelots occur.” That district includes 23 South Texas counties, starting with Nueces and ending with Cameron. Although the cat lives in Central and South America, the ocelot does not live in any other states besides Texas and Arizona and has become increasingly rare, according to the plaintiffs.