Leopardus pardalis

Body Length(mm) - 550-1000

Weight (kg) - 9-14 average

Litter Size - 2 average

Life Span - 8-11 years

Status - Least Concern

L.p.aequatorialis - Northern Andes

L.p.albescens - Texas, Mexico

L.p.maripensis - Venezuala to Guiana

L.p.mitis - S.Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina

L.p.pseudopardalis - Columbia, Venzuela

L.p.pusaeus - Ecuador

L.p.sonoriensis - Arizon, Mexico

L.p.steinbachi - Bolivia

The fur of the Ocelot, with its dark brown irregular shaped spots and stripes, edged with black on a yellow/tawny background give this lithe, medium size cat a most distinctive appearance. It is grouped, along with the Margay, Tiger Cat into the sub-genus Leopardus. The cats underlying coloration varies with its habitat, with the base colour of its fur being a rich yellow/cream in more arid areas to a darker yellow/brown in forested habitats. The slender body of the ocelot can measure up to four foot and weighs in at twice that of a large domestic cat.

The ocelots hunting technique is varied and is carried out mostly by night - its prey includes small deer, rabbits, rodents, reptiles and when available, fish. The ocelot swims well and although not as adept in climbing as the Margay, will hunt for birds and also sleep in the lower branches of trees in its forest habitat. Male and female cats often share territories which can be up to 3 square miles in area.

As far back as the ancient Aztec civilisation, the ocelot has been hunted and prized for its fur and today, along with deforestation in much of its habitat, has led to the cats virtual extinction in some of its range. Once found in many areas of southern North America, Central America and much of South America - today the animal has almost disappeared form its range in the southern states of North America and particular sub-species, notably L.pardalis.albescens are threatened by the conversion of large areas of plain into arable farm land - it is reported that as few as 120 ocelot survive in Texas today. In Central America and the northern countries of South America the ocelot is still to be found in forested areas but is at risk through hunting for its fur and also through trapping for the pet trade.

Generally the ocelot population has fallen to such levels that today the cat is listed in CITES Appendix 1 as an endangered species.

1997 Andrew Garman