The ocelot (//; Leopardus pardalis), also known as the dwarf leopard, is a wild cat distributed extensively over South America including the islands of Trinidad and Margarita, Central America, and Mexico. It has been reported as far north as Texas.13 North of Mexico, it is found regularly only in the extreme southern part of Texas,4 although there are rare sightings in southern Arizona.5
The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from 1972 until 1996, and is now rated "least concern" by the 2008 IUCN Red List.
The ocelot's genus Leopardus consists of nine species similar to the ocelot, such as Geoffroy's cat and the margay, which are also endemic to South and Central America. All of the cats in Leopardus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the ocelot being the biggest.
The following are the currently recognized subspecies of ocelot:1
- Leopardus pardalis pardalis, Amazon Rainforest
- Leopardus pardalis aequatorialis, northern Andes and Central America
- Leopardus pardalis albescens, eastern Mexico, southern Texas
- Leopardus pardalis melanurus, Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad
- Leopardus pardalis mitis, Argentina, Paraguay
- Leopardus pardalis nelsoni, southwestern Mexico
- Leopardus pardalis pseudopardalis, Colombia
- Leopardus pardalis puseaus, Ecuador
- Leopardus pardalis sonoriensis, northwestern Mexico, southern Arizona
- Leopardus pardalis steinbachi, Bolivia
Certain ocelot subspecies are officially endangered, although the species as a whole is not.citation needed
The ocelot ranges from 68 to 100 centimetres (27 to 39 in) in length, plus 26 to 45 centimeters (10 to 18 in) in tail length, and typically weighs 8 to 18 kilograms (18 to 40 lb), although much larger individuals have occasionally been recorded,91011 making it the largest of the generally dainty Leopardus wild cat genus. It has sleek, smooth fur, rounded ears and relatively large front paws. While similar in appearance to the oncilla and margay, which inhabit the same region, the ocelot is larger.
The coat pattern of ocelots can vary, being anything from cream to reddish-brown in color, or sometimes grayish, and marked with black rosettes. In many individuals, some of the spots, especially on the back, blend together to form irregular curved stripes or bands. The fur is short, and paler than the rest of the coat beneath. There are also single white spots, called ocelli, on the backs of the ears. Two black stripes line both sides of the face, and the long tail is banded by black.
The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and very territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. In addition, the cat marks its territory with urine. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share its spot with another ocelot of the same sex. Males occupy territories of 3.5 to 46 square kilometers (1.4 to 17.8 sq mi), while females occupy smaller, non-overlapping territories of 0.8 to 15 square kilometers (0.31 to 5.79 sq mi). Territories are marked by urine spraying and by leaving feces in prominent locations, sometimes favoring particular latrine sites.10
Ocelots hunt over a range of 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi), taking mostly small animals, including mammals, lizards, turtles, and frogs, crabs, birds, and fish.12 Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself, with rodents, rabbits, and opossums forming the largest part of the diet.10 Studies suggest that it follows and finds prey via odor trails, but the ocelot also has very good vision, including night vision.
Ocelots typically breed only once every other year, although the female may mate again shortly after losing a litter. Mating can occur at any time of year, and estrus lasts from seven to ten days. After mating, the female will find a den in a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or a dense (preferably thorny) thicket. Gestation lasts 79 to 82 days, and usually results in the birth of only a single kitten, with its eyes closed and a thin covering of hair. Litters of two or three kittens also occur, but are less common. The small litter size and relative infrequency of breeding make the ocelot particularly vulnerable to population loss.10
Compared with other small cats, ocelot kittens grow quite slowly. They weigh around 250 grams (8.8 oz) at birth, and do not open their eyes for 15 to 18 days. They begin to leave the den at three months, but remain with their mother for up to two years, before dispersing to establish their own territory. Ocelots live for up to 20 years in captivity.10
The ocelot is distributed extensively over South America (including the islands of Margarita and Trinidad), Central America, and Mexico with a small population in southern Texas.1313 Countries in this range are: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States and Venezuela. The cat is likely extinct in Uruguay.2
The ocelot once inhabited chaparral thickets of the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas, and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas.14 In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona. On November 7, 2009, an ocelot was photographed in the mountains of Cochise County, Arizona. This was the first such verifiable evidence of the feline's presence in the state.15 In February 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed the sighting of another ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona.16
The remnant U.S. ocelot population in south Texas has declined from 80-120 individuals in 1995 to less than 50 in recent years, with about half of ocelot deaths resulting from automobile accidents.1718 Most surviving Texas ocelots are in the shrublands remaining at or near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Brownsville, where only 30-35 animals remain.19
In Trinidad, habitat fragmentation, as well as direct exploitation via illegal poaching are major threats to the survival of the remnant populations of ocelots on the island. No empirical studies have been conducted to reliably estimate population status on the island. Historical records indicate that the species once existed on the island of Tobago, but it has long been extirpated there.citation needed
Ocelots only inhabit areas with relatively dense vegetation cover, although they may occasionally hunt in more open areas at night. They are found in tropical forest, thorn forest, mangrove swamps and savanna, at elevations ranging up to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft).10
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. (2008). Leopardus pardalis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 22 March 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Ocelot. The Animal Files. Retrieved on 2012-04-10.
- "The Nature Conservancy in Texas – Mammals – Ocelot". nature.org.
- "North American Mammals – Carnivora – Felidae – Leopardus pardalis". Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
- "ocelot, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. 2004.
- Karttunen, Frances (1983). An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 176.
- Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 228.
- Burnie, David; Don E. Wilson (2001). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. New York City: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
- Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 120–129. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
- Moreno, R. S.; Kays, Roland W.; Samudio, Rafael (2006). "Competitive release in diets of ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and puma (Puma concolor) after jaguar (Panthera onca) decline". Journal of Mammalogy 87 (4): 808–816. doi:10.1644/05-MAMM-A-360R2.1.
- Briggs, Mike; Peggy Briggs (2006). The Encyclopedia of World Wildlife. Parragon Books. ISBN 978-1-4054-3679-3.
- Trinidad. Paria Springs. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
- Mammals: Ocelot The San Diego Zoo
- "Rare ocelot photographed in southern Arizona". Associated Press. 17 April 2010.
- "Rare ocelot observed in southern Arizona". Arizona Game and Fish Department. 9 February 2011.
- Ocelot (Report). Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_bk_w7000_0013_ocelot.pdf.
- Steve Sinclair (2013-10-10). "Current Sightings: Plight of the ocelot: Endangered cat’s future uncertain". The Coastal Current. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- "Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)". Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- Dali with Capitain Moore and Ocelot – Vintage photo. Ecademy.com. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
- Huggler, Justin. "Chic ship too toxic for scrapping". ssMaritime.com.
- "Return of the grievous angel: New bio of Gram Parsons offers tragic insights". Austin American Statesman. Retrieved 2009-11-02.dead link
- Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera (1997). Katherine Berrin, ed. The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York City: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-01802-6.
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- Ocelot sound at National Geographic Society
- CSG Species Accounts: Ocelot
- Ocelot Behavior & Care, by Mindy Stinner
- Ecology of the Ocelot and Margay