The ocelot is a medium sized, spotted cat that grows to about three feet in length (not including its tail) and weights about thirty pounds. They have sleek, smooth fur with rounded ears and relatively large front paws. Their spots are much larger than those of a bobcat, their tails much longer, and pelage shorter. They differ from the jaguar in their much smaller size and the presence of parallel black stripes on nape and oblique stripes near shoulder.
The ocelot preys primarily on mice, rats, armadillos, opossums, raccoons, javelina, deer, doves, lizards, and rattlesnakes, but their diet may also include other species of both tree-dwelling and ground-dwelling natures. Ocelots are generally nocturnal, with hunting activities peaking at dusk and dawn.
Habitat / Distribution
This species lives in tropical and subtropical rainforests to semi-arid, dense thorn scrub. It may be found in partly cleared forests and second-growth woodland. At one time, it inhabited brush land throughout southwest United States, from the Texas panhandle to central Arizona, but much of that habitat was destroyed to make way for agriculture.
Reproduction / Social System
The ocelot’s mating season varies across regions, in Texas occurring in October and in the Yucatan in the spring. The gestation period is 70 days and litters usually consist of one or two kittens, but up to four is possible.
Range & Population
The ocelot ranges from southern Texas to northern Argentina and does not migrate. A male’s home range will vary from 1.2 to 18 square kilometers, while a female’s will vary from .8 to 15 kilometers.
While the ocelot is, as a species, in the category of “Least Concern,” but their historical range has continued to decrease in the page few decades. The species once inhabited areas on the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Presently, less than 100 individual ocelots are thought to reside in the country. They can only be found in several small regions of South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona. The ocelot’s continued presence in the U.S, is up in the air, as loss of habitat, being shot by ranchers, and the introduction of highway puts strain on their survival. As such, the ocelot was listed as Federally Endangered in the U.S. in 1982. They are also often hunted for their fur or captured for the breeding for the pet trade. In the 60s and 70s, they were hunted relentlessly for their pelts with one estimate putting the yearly worldwide harvest at 200,000. Presently, the Ocelot Recovery Team is discussing the potential of translocating ocelots within South Texas between private ranches and the only protected refuge at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and from Mexico to Texas. Additionally, every year in South Texas is the Ocelot Conservation Festival to educate about the needs of this amazing species. To find out more, visit www.friendsofsouthtexasrefuges.org/?id=274.
Medium sized (grow to about three feet in length, not including tail)