The term “armadillo” means “little armored one” in Spanish and though this modern day tank is one of 20 armadillo species, it is the only species found in the United States. This unique creature is well known in Texas and even serves as the Texas state small mammal! The armor plated armadillo is a prolific digger whose dens often become homes for other animals once the armadillo has moved on to a different area. While they spend most of their time on land, armadillos can hold their breath up to 10 minutes as they "swim" (walk along the bottom) in bodies of water. When startled, armadillos can leap up to four feet into the air!
North American Black Bear
Black bears are currently making a significant comeback in West Texas! Texas is traditionally home to two North American black bear subspecies, the Mexican black bear and the New Mexico black bear, who are both listed as endangered species. Though black bears are listed as carnivores, these gentle animals are true omnivores, often snacking on nuts, berries, roots and other vegetation. Black bears are not as dangerous as some think, and pose little threat to livestock.
North American River Otter
River otters are one of the most playful animals native to Texas! These superb swimmers spend most of their time near water, but can travel long distances to find new bodies of water to make their home. River otters were trapped extensively in the 19th and 20th century, resulting in a sharp population drop. Though habitat destruction and water pollution still put these animals at great risk, the river otter population in Texas is booming, with their historical range of east Texas quickly growing to include coastal, southern, and even central Texas!
Ocelots were once found across much of Texas and into Louisiana and Arkansas, but are now limited to a small pocket in deep south Texas. Due to habitat loss, road strikes, and historical hunting, the Texas ocelot is down to less than 20 individuals remaining in the wild. The Texas Zoo participates heavily in the conservation of this magnificent species through providing used bedding and urine from Texas Zoo ocelots to field biologist who use the materials to track and trap wild ocelots for documentation. In addition to field work, The Texas Zoo is proudly a part of the ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP) which hopes to some day reintroduce ocelots to their native lands.
Red wolves once ranged throughout the eastern half of Texas, but due to human presence in the region, hunting, and the expansion of the coyote habitat which resulted in interbreeding, the last pure group of red wolves was gone by 1970. Red wolves are the most endangered canid in the world! With less than 25 red wolves remaining in a small pocket of their native range in North Carolina, facilities across the US are fighting to bring them back. The Texas Zoo is proud to be a part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan (SSP). Red wolves are classified as a recovery species which means the way these individuals are handled in managed care is very different from other species as any individual could be called upon for reintroduction into the wild at a moments notice.