Ocelot - Illustration by Bill Singleton


Felis pardalis


The ocelot is often referred to as one of the most beautiful of cats, with a graceful body and long, powerful legs. The coat is creamy yellow marked with rosettes and spots which tend to run parallel to the sides of its body. The head has bold, black spots and bars. The tail is ringed and tipped with black. It is a medium sized cat weighing from 12­30 pounds, and its length varies from 30­41 inches.

The ocelot inhabits a wide range of habitats. It can be found in tropical forests, savannah grasslands, and dense thorn scrub. In Arizona, its presence is usually found in desert scrub communities. The unifying factor is the presence of thick undercover.

Historically, the ocelot ranged from most of Texas, southeastern Arizona as far as Fort Verde, much of Mexico, and Central and South America. The current range is similar, but with a much smaller distribution of ocelots.

Females can begin to breed at 18 to 22 months, while males begin breeding at 15 to 30 months. The gestation period is 79 to 85 days with a litter of 1­2 kittens produced.

The ocelot is primarily a nocturnal hunter. Its diet consists of small to medium sized animals, such as rabbits, mice and birds.

On July 2, 1982, the ocelot was included as a federally endangered animal under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. In Arizona, the ocelot is protected by order of Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Also, under Arizona Wildlife Regulation, the ocelot is considered "prohibited wildlife." Therefore, "live" taking, possession, importation, exportation, etc., are generally regulated.1 The ocelot does have a recovery plan, yet the degrees of implementation in Arizona are unknown.

Ocelots in Pima County:
The ocelot is primarily a nocturnal creature and stays close to dense cover during the day. Sightings of this animal tend to be very rare. Since 1980, one ocelot may have been trapped around the Sasabe area (Brown 1985b, et.al. in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Very little is known about the status of the ocelot in Pima County; but since recent reports of ocelot sightings have occurred in Pima County, the ocelot should be further studied. Habitat destruction, human disturbance, and illegal trapping and shooting may present a problem for the ocelot.



1. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Listed Cats of Texas and Arizona Recovery Plan (With Emphasis on the Ocelot). Albuquerque, New Mexico. 1990.


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