© 2009 Laura Stafford
The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) has short fur that is marked with both black spots and rosette shapes. Their color can vary depending upon their habitat, and can be yellowish, reddish brown or reddish gray. They have dark markings on their cheeks and the tail is ringed or barred with black on the upper side, whitish on the underside, and black tipped.
The ears of an ocelot are small and rounded and carry a pronounced white mark on the back of each. These “false eyes” help confuse potential predators and also serve the purpose of helping young ocelots follow their mothers through dense forest underbrush.
In the wild, ocelots inhabit a wide variety of habitats, from humid tropical forests, dry arid scrub, swampy forests, dense thorny chaparral, savannas, and coastal mangroves.
Once ranging as far east as Arkansas and Louisiana, and throughout Texas, their range has decreased immensely. The ocelot is now located primarily in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
The ocelot is endangered and has been on the Endangered Species list since 1973.
Ocelots prey upon many small to medium-sized mammals and birds. Prey includes rabbits, rodents, young peccaries, monkeys, opossum, iguanas, tree lizards, frogs, crabs, fish, and small turtles.
Predators include hawks, eagles, snakes, bobcats, coyotes, and humans.
The den prepared by the female is usually well protected in a dense thicket or brush. 1-3 kittens are born after 70-80 day gestation period. The young remain in and around the den for several weeks.
A captive ocelot lived for 27 years, while in the wild they live 7-10 years.
The ocelot ranges from 27 to 40 inches in length, plus 10 to 18 additional inches tail length, and weighs between 16 to 25 pounds.
Unlike many cats, they do not avoid water and can swim well.