LOS FRESNOS —Bayside Drive, one of the most popular features at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, will temporarily close beginning in March for road construction that will make crossing much safer for ocelots.
Two under-the-road wildlife crossings (similar to box culverts) will be installed so that ocelots and other wildlife can move about their natural ranges without having to cross on top of the road, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The press release states that parts of the drive that formerly made a loop will remain closed to vehicles.
The remainder of the drive will be widened to allow for two-way traffic. The entrance to the drive will be relocated to the south to avoid ocelot habitat.
However, the construction will not prevent visitors from having an enjoyable time, said Boyd Blihovde, refuge manager.
“The (hike, bike and tram tours) are being diverted to other parts of the refuge. Virtually everything will continue,” Blihovde said. “The area we are diverting to is an area that doesn’t see much traffic so most people in many ways prefer this area because they see a lot of wildlife.”
The wildlife in this area includes water fowl and other migratory birds that use the refuge.
The tour will take visitors around the Laguna Atascosa.
“And because of that, it’s the same type of spectacular view you’d get out of Bayside Drive by going to the Laguna Madre,” Blihovde said.
Once the construction around Bayside Drive is complete, biking, hiking and tram tours will resume, and limited access will be given to private vehicles.
Vehicular access has been prohibited since 2013 due to two incidents in which ocelots were struck and killed in 2009 and 2010, Blihovde said.
Although there is no guarantee the wildlife crossing will prevent more ocelot deaths, it is a good preventive measure going forward, Blihovde said.
“We want to reduce mortality as much as possible,” he said.
Construction is expected to be completed in late 2016 or early 2017, officials said.