Ocelot - Cat 1 of 8 in the Leopardus family of cats - Wild Cat Family

Ocelot – Cat 1 of 8 in the Leopardus family of cats

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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

The Ocelot is one of the eight wild cats in the Leopardus family of cats also known as the Ocelot family of cats. (In fact, there are thirteen Leopardus cats now if you take into account the 2017 Tigrina split and the 2021 reclassification of the Pampas Cat into five species.) The small spotted cats of the Leopardus family are distributed throughout Central and South America.

The beautifully marked Ocelot is common and widespread throughout most of its Latin American range, and only a small population remains of its prior North American distribution. It is the largest of the smaller Latin American cats and is an agile tree climber and a strong swimmer.

In spite of better legal protection, the Ocelot is still hunted illegally for the pet and fur trade, and clearing of its natural forest habitat for farming has become a major threat to its survival.

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) - Leopardus Lineage

American Ocelot

A film crew managed to record some of the last remaining Ocelots in Texas and a documentary entitled American Ocelot was published on PBS Nature.

"Dive deep into South Texas to meet one of America’s most endangered cats: the ocelot. With about 120 known ocelots remaining, the future of the U.S. ocelot population relies on ranchers, scientists and government agencies working together."

There are some clips about the film on YouTube and here is a podcast with the researcher that helped guide the film crew: Mamma Jane the Ocelot reality star - by Wild Animals podcast.

Ocelots in the News

The smaller cats are not often in the news so these articles are from the past year:

Aug 2023: Watch: Rare ocelot still roaming Arizona mountains - The Wildlife Society

Aug 2023: Rare Footage Captures The Moment a Predator Attacked a Sloth ... And Lost : ScienceAlert

Dec 2022: The world’s first known albino ocelot worries scientists | Science & Tech | EL PAÍS English (elpais.com)

Unfortunately, these news sites are riddled with ads, but the articles are nevertheless interesting!

Small Wild Cats Audio - Coat Color

Listen to a short audio taken from a chapter in the book Small Wild Cats by well-known small cat conservationist Jim (James) Sanderson.

This excerpt covers how small wild cats like the Ocelot get their coat color and what causes black coats.


Small Wild Cats - Sanderson and Watson

1872 Observations of Ocelots on iNaturalist

There are currently 1872 sightings of Ocelots on iNaturalist from across North and South America.

iNaturalist is a global platform for the public to upload images of wild creatures they have seen in nature. If you have any photos of natural biodiversity from your travels, be sure to open an account and upload your images. Identification is verified by other members and the data can be used in future research. A great way to contribute to conservation and research!

Note there are images of dead animals in case you are a sensitive viewer.

Ocelot - Brazil
iNaturalist Ocelot Observation Brazil · © Rachel Kolokoff Hopper · CC-BY-NC

Where to see Ocelots

A great place to read trip reports from people that have travelled to look for wild cats in their natural habitat is MammalWatching.com.

Here is a list of recent trip reports to look for Ocelots and here is a list of ethical tour operators that offer wildlife trips in South America.

If you know of anyone that may be interested in studying wild cats, please share this post with them.

There is a dire need for research on the lesser known smaller cats such as Ocelots.

I would love to encourage as many budding zoologists as possible to specialize in these wonderful animals!

Many thanks!

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