- Leopardus pardalisBy: C.M.Shorter
are well known and are considered
by many to be one of the most beautiful Wild
. Their coat is golden
in color, short and soft with well defined streaks and
blotch type markings sometimes giving it an almost chainlike
appearance. The Ocelot is often called the "Painted
Leopard". Facial markings are similar to those of
with both horizontal stripes extending
from the outer corners of each eye across the muzzle
and vertical stripes running over the forehead. Their
face and undersides are also snowy white in color. Tails
are black on the upper side, white underneath ringed
or barred in black ending with a black tip. Like most
wild cats the ears are small and rounded and carry a
pronounced white mark on the back of each. These "False
" help confuse potential predators
and also serve the purpose of helping the young follow
through dense forest underbrush.
Ocelots range from Southern Texas, Mexico
into Central and South America in a wide variety of habitats from
humid tropical forests to dry scrub and savannas, coastal mangrove
and swamp forests preferring to dwell under shelter of dense forest
cover. They are excellent swimmers and climbers, but not as agile
as the Margay. Prey
consists of a wide variety of small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs,
tortoises and insects with grass ingested regularly
comprising up to 20% of their diet.
Exploited for the fur trade and exotic pet
trade with the normal method of capture being to kill the mother
to take the kittens, the ocelots population has suffered significant
decline. Human interference and vehicular fatalities, particularly
along Texas roadsides similar to the that of Florida's Key Deer
Panther have also had a negative impact on their
Once prominent in the lower United States
ranging through Texas across the Rio Grande, Ocelots are very
Recent radio telemetry studies showed that an Ocelot patrols
the bounds of his territory every 2 to 4 days, marking areas
and checking on the sexual condition of females within his boundary.
Special programs are in place sponsored by the Wildlife Advocacy
Group to increase public awareness of activities in these areas.
Particularly of a program implemented by the Immigration and
Naturalization's Border Patrol called "Operation Rio Grande" consisting
of over 200 stadium lights covering 25 miles along the Rio Grande,
including fences and other intrusions constructed in critical
wildlife territory to stop illegal immigrants from crossing the
border into the United States.
These human barriers threaten extinction
of the Ocelot and Jaguarundi in this area. The Jaguar and Margay,
former natives of Texas
are now extinct in this area. A coalition of groups including
Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and the Frontera Audubon
Society have requested formal consultation with the Fish & Wildlife
Service requesting the INS make an official "Environmental
Impact Statement" to show compliance and intent of these
activities in accordance with the National Environmental Policy
Act protecting these species. It is impossible for a Wild
Cat to contend with these man-made barriers. Furthermore, much of
the dense, thorny foliage in which they would normally take shelter
has been cleared and the miles of stadium lights are very detrimental
to these nocturnal hunters. Conservation goals are to achieve
a sustainable "natural wildlife corridor" to allow
these animals safe passage along their rightful protected territory.
Ocelots are prolific breeders in captivity resulting in Zoos
having unwanted stock and there is a lack of sufficient quality
permanent, life-time homes for the offspring in man's hands.
They cannot survive long term at the present rate of habitat
destruction in the wild. This is an ironic situation and the
Ocelot is a good example of the need for well managed Captive
Breeding Programs if we are to achieve a sustainable delicate
balance between man and nature. Ocelots are offered protection
over most of their range, with the exception of Ecuador, El Salvador
and Guyana, being now placed on CITES Appendix I.
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Scientific Name: Leopardus pardalis
Common Name(s): Ocelot, Painted Leopard
Range: Southern Texas, Mexico, Central & South America
Average Weight: 8 - 12kg (17 - 26 lbs)
Length: 92 - 144 cm (37 - 58")
Diet: Carnivorous. Small Mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs, tortoises,
insects and grass.
Gestation Period: 72 - 80 Days
Cub Maturity: 10 - 12 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 3 Kittens
Lifespan: 14- 18 years in the wild. Captive individuals have
been recorded to live over 25 years.
Predators: Man. Threats: Deforestation, Loss of Habitat
Social Structure: Solitary except when breeding.
Territory Size: 30 - 50km (17 - 28 miles) with males covering
larger territories than females.
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix I