Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge

South Texas Refuge is Home to Ocelot and Other Rare Animals

Danno Wise

Located along the Laguna Madre in deep South Texas, approximately 25 miles north of Brownsville, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge offers visitors a chance to see a dynamically varied population of wildlife in quite a unique setting. Because of its proximity to the southern US border and its blend of subtropical, coastal and desert environments, Laguna Atascosa’s 45,000 acres are home to a variety of animals which can’t be found in other refuges and state parks.

Without a doubt, the ocelot is the top draw for LANWR. This diminutive wildcat has been on the endangered species list since 1972 and as late as 1995, there was only an estimated 120 cats remaining in the wild, approximately 35 of which live within the Laguna Atascosa NWR. Today the Friends of Laguna Atascosa NWR sponsor the Adopt-An-Ocelot program, allowing visitors to “adopt” a cat for a small donation.

The LANWR has two driving “loops” and five wildlife and nature viewing trails which range in length from 1/8 mile to 3 1/10 miles long. These trails can be walked, biked or hiked. Additionally, the “Alligator Pond,” several resacas and a portion of the Laguna Madre Bay fall within the refuge’s boundaries, giving visitors a variety of terrains over which to view bird and animal life.

Whitetail deer hunting is allowed during late fall and winter. Hunters must apply and be selected for a permit in order to hunt. Camping and fishing are not allowed within the refuge, but both activities are available a short distance away at Adolph Thomae Park (956-748-2044), which is part of the Cameron County Park system and is located on the banks of the Arroyo Colorado in Arroyo City.

In addition, Laguna Atascosa holds educational programs on a regular basis from November through April and offers a variety of volunteer opportunities for those wishing to be involved in the operation of the refuge. And, for those nature lovers who just can’t get enough time in the field, the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge are both located within driving distance of LANWR.