, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 477-492

Environmental Contaminants in Blood, Hair, and Tissues of Ocelots from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas, 1986–1997

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The ocelot (Felis pardalis) isan endangered neotropical cat distributed within asmall range in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV), inTexas, U.S.A. Studies of the impacts of environmentalcontaminants in wild cats are few. Approximately onefourth of the estimated population (about 100) ofocelots in the LRGV was sampled to evaluate theimpacts of chlorinated pesticides, polychlorinatedbiphenyls, and trace elements on the population. Hairwas collected from 32 ocelots trapped between 1986–1992,and blood was collected from 20 ocelots trappedbetween 1993–1997. A few blood samples were obtainedfrom individuals recaptured two or three times. Tissue samples from 4 road-killed ocelots were alsoanalyzed. DDE, PCBs, and Hg were some of the mostcommon contaminants detected in hair and blood. MeanHg levels in hair ranged from 0.5 to 1.25 μg g-1 dw,Se from 1.5 to 3.48 μg g-1 dw, and Pb from 0.56 to26.8 μg g-1 dw. Mean DDE concentrations in plasma ranged from 0.005 μg g-1 ww to 0.153 μg g-1 ww, and PCBs ranged from 0.006 μg g-1 ww to 0.092 μg g-1 ww. Mean Hg levels in red blood cells rangedfrom 0.056 μg g-1 dw to 0.25 μg g-1 dw. Concentrations of DDE, PCBs, or Hg, did not increasesignificantly with age, although the highestconcentrations of DDE and Hg were found in olderanimals. Overall, concentrations of DDE, PCBs, and Hgwere low and at levels that currently do not pose anythreat to health or survival of the ocelot. This isfurther supported by good reproduction of the ocelotin the LRGV, where adult females averaged about 1.5kittens/litter. Thus, it seems that the current majorthreat to recovery of the ocelot in the LRGV may behabitat loss, although potential impacts of newgeneration pesticides, such as organophosphorus andcarbamate insecticides need further study.