Mammal Species of the World
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Ocelots are most populous in Central America but can be found in all countries between southeastern United States (Texas, Arizona) and northern Argentina. They are found in higher density clusters in northern Central America, northwestern South America, northeastern South America, and central southern South America.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-2,500,000 square km (about 8000-1,000,000 square miles)) Historical range: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona south through Mexico, Central America, and South America to eastern Peru, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern Argentina. Occurs in the mountains of Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru, but not on the high plateaus of southern Peru and Bolivia (Kitchener 1991); recently recorded in Uruguay (see Kitchener 1991); to elevations of 1000 m. In the U.S., currently found regularly only in southern Texas (e.g., Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, site of a recent radiotelemetry study). Occurrence in Arizona is based only on a few old records from the vicinity of Fort Verde and Patagonia (Hoffmeister 1986); documentation for these records is less than ideal.
U.S.A. (AZ, TX) to Central and South America
Ocelots are the largest member of the genus Leopardus. They weigh between 8.5 and 16 kg, are between 65 and 97 cm long, and males are considerably larger than females. Their pelage is shorter and less soft and thick than their close relative, the margay (Leopardus wiedii). Their ventral pelage is white and their dorsal pelage ranges from off-white to tawny-yellow to reddish-gray. Pelage coloration varies with habitat, as ocelots from arid scrub regions have grayer coats than those found in tropical forests. Entirely black individuals have been seen but are rare. Usually, ocelots have dark streaks, blotches, or rosettes arranged in small clusters around dark-colored areas that tend to run in parallel, horizontal chains. Rosettes and blotches are bordered with black and have a lighter-colored center. Ocelots have two black stripes on their cheeks, black ears with a central yellow spot, and one or two black transverse bars on the insides of the legs. Facial patterns are very distinct, permitting easy recognition of individuals. Their long tail is typically ringed, but may only be marked with dark bars on the dorsal surface. Relative to body-size, they have large paws, which is why their Spanish name is "manigordo", meaning big feet. Additionally, their fore paws are broader than their hind paws. Like other members of the suborder Feliformia, ocelots lack a third molar, have an absent or reduced postglenoid foramen at the base of the skulls, and an anterior palatine canal that passes through the maxilla. They have a concave muzzle and the dental formula is 3/3, 1/1, 3/2, 1/1 for a total of 30 teeth. Their basal metabolic rate is approximately 0.298 cm^3 oxygen/hour.
Range mass: 8.5 to 16 kg.
Range length: 65 to 97 cm.
Average basal metabolic rate: .298 cm3.O2/g/hr.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Average basal metabolic rate: 17.368 W.
Length: 125 cm
Weight: 14000 grams
Size in North America
Average: 1,078 mm males; 1,022 mm females
Range: 950-1,367 mm males; 920-1,209 mm females
Average: 10 kg males; 8.8 kg females
Range: 7-14.5 kg males; 7-10.8 kg females
Differs from the jaguar in much smaller size (jaguar is 157-242 cm in total length) and pelage spots not forming distinct rosettes. Differs from FELIS WIEDII and F. TIGRINA in being larger (hind foot longer than 145 mm vs. shorter, greatest length of skull more than 120 mm vs. shorter, length of P4 more than 12.7 mm vs. shorter) (Hall 1981). Differs from young mountain lion in having spots arranged in rows or in a chainlike pattern.
Chocó-Darién Moist Forests Habitat
This taxon can be found in the Chocó-Darién moist forests ecoregion, one of the most species rich lowland areas on Earth, with exceptional abundance and endemism over a broad range of taxa including plants, birds, amphibians and arthropods. The biological distinctiveness is exceptional, with considerable biodiversity.
There are three principal geomorphologic types in the ecoregion: alluvial plains of recent origin, low mountains formed by the relatively recent dissection of sediments from the Tertiary and Pleistocene periods, and the complexes in mountain areas consisting of mesozoic rocks. The high precipitation and the topography mean that the ecoregion includes a complex of great hydrographic basins, the most important being those of the Atrato, Baudó, and San Juan Rivers and the Micay and Patía Rivers in the south. The force of the water in many of these rivers form deep gorges cutting through the mountains, creating spectacular rapids and waterfalls in the mountains. At lower elevations, large rivers become very wide and with many meanders. Given the high precipitation in the region, it is not surprising that the soils are severely leached and poor in nutrients. Most of the ecoregion has typical laterite soils with reddish clay, although the soils are younger and less leached in some areas, especially close to the base of the Andes and in the floodplains of the major rivers. Of particular botanical interest are the white clay soils in the region of Bajo Calima in Colombia, which are associated with the gigantic sclerophyllous leafed and unusually large fruited vegetation.
Depending on the altitudinal gradient, soil water content and the effect of the sea, there are various types of vegetation that make up the ecoregion. In broad terms, in the northern part of the ecoregion, the lowland rainforests correlate to the Brosimun utilis alliance, including communities dominated by the deciduous Cuipo tree (Cavanillesia platanifolia), the Espavé wild cashew (Anacardium excelsum), the Panamanian rubber tree (Castilla elastica), Brosimum guianense, Bombacopsis spp., Ceiba pentandra, Dipteryx panamensis, and others. In the undergrowth Mabea occidentalis, Clidemia spp., Conostegia spp. and Miconia spp. are abundant. In zones that are occasionally flooded, the Cativo (Prioria copaifera) flourishes as well. In the southern part of the ecoregion, these rainforests have multiple strata, with two layers of trees, lianas, and epiphytes with vigorous growth rates. The number of deciduous plants increases in the north and south, where there is a dry season, particularly near the coast. The forests at higher altitudes, starting at 600 meters, have communities with the following species: Guamos (Inga spp.), Billia columbiana, Brosimum sp., Sorocea spp., Jacaranda hesperia, Pourouma chocoana, Guatteria ferruginea, Cecropia spp., Elaegia utilis, and Brunellia spp.
There are at least 127 species of amphibians in the Choco-Darien, including the following endemic anuran species: Isla Bonita robber frog (Craugastor crassidigitus); Kokoe poison frog (Phyllobates aurotaenia NT), found on western slopes of the Cordillera Occidental , along the Rao San Juan drainage south to the Rao Raposo; Golden poison frog (Phyllobates terribilis EN); La Brea poison frog (Oophaga occultator); Andagoya robber frog (Pristimantis roseus); Antioquia beaked toad (Rhinella tenrec); Atrato glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium aureoguttatum); Blue-bellied poison arrow frog (Ranitomeya minuta); Colombian egg frog (Ctenophryne minor), known only to the in the upper Rao Saija drainage; Condoto stubfoot toad (Atelopus spurrelli VU); Flecked leaf frog (Phyllomedusa psilopygion); LeDanubio robber frog (Strabomantis zygodactylus). An endemic salamander present in the Choco-Darien is the Finca Chibigui salamander (Bolitoglossa medemi VU).
Some other non-endemic anurans found here are: Anatipes robber frog (Strabomantis anatipes); Banded horned treefrog (Hemiphractus fasciatus); Black-legged poison frog (Phyllobates bicolor NT); Horned marsupial frog (Gastrotheca cornuta EN), known for having the largest amphibian eggs in the world; El Tambo stubfoot toad (Atelopus longibrachius EN); Elegant stubfoot toad (Atelopus elegans CR). Endemic caecilians in the ecoregion include the Andagoya caecilian (Caecilia perdita).
There are a number of reptilian taxa within the ecoregion, including: Adorned graceful brown snake (Rhadinaea decorata); the endemic Black centipede snake (Tantilla nigra); Boulenger's least gecko (Sphaerodactylus scapularis VU); the endemic Iridescent ground snake (Atractus iridescens); the endemic Cauca coral snake (Micrurus multiscutatus); the endemic Colombian coral snake (Micrurus spurelli); the endemic Dark ground snake (Atractus melas); the endemic Colombian mud turtle (Atractus melas VU); and the endemic Echternacht's ameiva (Ameiva anomala).
There are 577 species of birds recorded; Tyrannidae is listed as the most diverse avian family, presenting 28 genera and 60 species within the ecoregion. The Choco-Daroemis is a center of avian endemism of the Neotropics; moreover, according to Stattersfield, this ecoregion spans two Endemic Bird Areas, one in Central America and one in South America.
Between these two Endemic Bird Areas there are over sixty restricted range species, including the Chocó tinamou (Crypturellus kerriae VU), Chestnut-mantled Oropendola (Psarocolius cassini EN), Viridian dacnis (Dacnis viguieri), Crested ant-tanager (Habia cristata), Lita woodpecker (Piculus litea), and Plumbeous forest-falcon (Micrastur plumbeus EN). Also to be noted is the presence of the Harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the Black and white crowned eagle (Spizastur melanoleucus), taxa increasingly rare in many areas of the Neotropics, and possibly the Speckled antshrike (Xenornis setifrons EN) although one has not been recorded in Colombia since the 1940s.
The region is rich in mammalian taxa, but the larger animals have received inadequate research. These include the Bush dog (Speothos venaticus NT); Chocó tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi EN), the Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii EN), the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla VU), the Brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fuscipens CR), the Puma (Puma concolor VU), the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis LC), and the jaguar (Panthera onca NT).
Marismas Nacionales-San Blas Mangroves Habitat
This taxon is found in the Marismas Nacionales-San Blas mangroves ecoregion contains the most extensive block of mangrove ecosystem along the Pacific coastal zone of Mexico, comprising around 2000 square kilometres. Mangroves in Nayarit are among the most productive systems of northwest Mexico. These mangroves and their associated wetlands also serve as one of the most important winter habitat for birds in the Pacific coastal zone, by serving about eighty percent of the Pacific migratory shore bird populations.
Although the mangroves grow on flat terrain, the seven rivers that feed the mangroves descend from mountains, which belong to the physiographic province of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The climate varies from temperate-dry to sub-humid in the summer, when the region receives most of its rainfall (more than 1000 millimetres /year).
Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans), Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) and White Mangrove trees (Laguncularia racemosa) occur in this ecoregion. In the northern part of the ecoregion near Teacapán the Black Mangrove tree is dominant; however, in the southern part nearer Agua Brava, White Mangrove dominates. Herbaceous vegetation is rare, but other species that can be found in association with mangrove trees are: Ciruelillo (Phyllanthus elsiae), Guiana-chestnut (Pachira aquatica), and Pond Apple (Annona glabra).
There are are a number of reptiles present, which including a important population of Morelet's Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) and American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) in the freshwater marshes associated with tropical Cohune Palm (Attalea cohune) forest. Also present in this ecoregion are reptiles such as the Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), Mexican Beaded Lizard (Heloderma horridum) and Yellow Bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta). Four species of endangered sea turtle use the coast of Nayarit for nesting sites including Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas).
A number of mammals are found in the ecoregion, including the Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Southern Pygmy Mouse (Baiomys musculus), Saussure's Shrew (Sorex saussurei). In addition many bat taxa are found in the ecoregion, including fruit eating species such as the Pygmy Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus phaeotis); Aztec Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus aztecus) and Toltec Fruit-eating Bat (Artibeus toltecus); there are also bat representatives from the genus myotis, such as the Long-legged Myotis (Myotis volans) and the Cinnamon Myotis (M. fortidens).
There are more than 252 species of birds, 40 percent of which are migratory, including 12 migratory ducks and approximately 36 endemic birds, including the Bumblebee Hummingbird, (Atthis heloisa) and the Mexican Woodnymph (Thalurania ridgwayi). Bojórquez considers the mangroves of Nayarit and Sinaloa among the areas of highest concentration of migratory birds. This ecoregion also serves as wintering habitat and as refuge from surrounding habitats during harsh climatic conditions for many species, especially birds; this sheltering effect further elevates the conservation value of this habitat.
Some of the many representative avifauna are Black-bellied Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis), Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), sanderling (Calidris alba), American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), Mexican Jacana (Jacana spinosa), Elegant Trogan (Trogan elegans), Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), White-tailed Hawk (Buteo albicaudatus), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Plain-capped Starthroat (Heliomaster constantii), Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) and Wood Stork (Mycteria americana).
Belizean Pine Forests Habitat
This species is found in the Belizean pine forests along the Central America's northwestern Caribbean Sea coast; the ecoregion exhibits relatively well preserved fragments of vegetation as well as a considerable abundance of fauna. This ecoregion comprises a geographically small portion of the total land area of the ecoregions of Belize. There is relatively low endemism in the Belizean pine forests, and only a moderate species richness here; for example, only 447 vertebrate taxa have been recorded in the ecoregion. The ecoregion represents one of the few examples of lowland and premontane pine forests in the Neotropics, where the dominant tree species is Honduran Pine (Pinus caribaea var. hondurensis), which requires periodic low intensity burns for its regeneration. The vegetation is adapted to the xeric, acidic and nutrient-poor conditions that occur primarily in the dry season.
In the forest of the Maya Mountains, vegetation reaches higher altitudes, the topography is more rugged and crossed by various rivers, and nighttime temperatures are lower. The pine trees are larger and numerous, and the pine forest intersects other formations of interest such as rainforest, Cohune Palm (corozal), cactus associations, and others. About eleven percent of Belize is covered by natural pine vegetation. Only two percent represents totally closed forests; three percent semi-closed forests; and the remaining six percent pine savannas, that occupy coastal areas and contain isolated pine trees or stands of pine trees separated by extensive pastures. In addition to human activity, edaphic factors are a determining matter in this distribution, since the forests on the northern plain and southern coastal zone are on sandy soils or sandy-clay soils and usually have less drainage than the more fertile soils in the center of the country.
At elevations of 650 to 700 metres, the forests transition to premontane in terms of vegetation. At these higher levels, representative tree species are Egg-cone Pine (Pinus oocarpa), which crosses with Honduras Pine (P. hondurensis), where distributions overlap, although belonging to subsections of different genera; British Honduras Yellowwood (Podocarpus guatemalensis) and Quercus spp.; moreover, and in even more moist areas there is a predominance of Jelecote Pine (Pinus patula), together with the palm Euterpe precatoria var. longivaginata and the arboreal ferns Cyathea myosuroides and Hemitelia multiflora.
A number of reptilian species are found in the Belizean pine forests, including: Guatemala Neckband Snake (Scaphiodontophis annulatus); Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais); On the coasts, interior lakes and rivers of Belize and by extension in this ecoregion there are two species of threatened crocodiles: American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and Morelet's Crocodile (C. moreletii), while observation of the Central American River Turtle (Dermatemys mawii CR) is not uncommon in this ecoregion.
Also to be noted is the use of this habitat by the Mexican Black Howler (Alouatta pigra), which can be considered the most endangered howler monkey of the genus, and the Central American spider monkey (Atteles geoffroyi). Both species experienced a decline due to the epidemic yellow fever that swept the country in the 1950s. The five feline species that exist in Belize: Jaguar (Panthera onca), Puma (F. concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Margay (Leopardus wiedii) and Jaguarundí (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) are in appendix I of CITES, as well as the Central American tapir (Tapirus bairdii) can been seen with relative frequency. Belize has the highest density of felines in Central America. The tapir is abundant around rivers. The White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari) is also present in the ecoregion.
Although most of the amphibians and reptiles are found in humid premontane and lowland forests, the only endemic frog in this ecoregion, Maya Mountains Frog (Lithobates juliani), is restricted to the Mountain Pine Ridge in the Maya Mountains. Salamanders in the ecoregion are represented by the Alta Verapaz Salamander (Bolitoglossa dofleini NT), whose males are arboreal, while females live under logs. Anuran taxa found in the ecoregion include: Rio Grande Frog (Lithobates berlandieri); Sabinal Frog (Leptodactylus melanonotus); Northern Sheep Frog (Hypopachus variolosus); Stauffer's Long-nosed Treefrog (Scinax staufferi); and Tungara Treefrog (Engystomops pustulosus).
Present in the ecoregion are a number of avian species, including the endangered Yellow-headed Amazon Parrot (Amazona oratrix EN), although this bird is adversely affected by ongoing habitat destruction. Of particular interest is the presence in this ecoregion of Central America's highest procreative colony of Jabiru (Jabiru mycteria), a large migratory bird, particularly in the Crooked Tree sanctuary, on the country's northern plains.
Rio Negro-Rio San Sun Mangroves Habitat
This taxon occurs in the Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves, which consists of a disjunctive coastal ecoregion in parts of Costa Rica, extending to the north slightly into Nicaragua and south marginally into Panama. Furthermore, this species is not necessarily restricted to this ecoregion. Mangroves are sparse in this ecoregion, and are chiefly found in estuarine lagoons and small patches at river mouths growing in association with certain freshwater palm species such as the Yolillo Palm (Raphia taedigera), which taxon has some saline soil tolerance, and is deemed a basic element of the mangrove forest here. These mangrove communities are also part of a mosaic of several habitats that include mixed rainforest, wooded swamps, coastal wetlands, estuarine lagoons, sand backshores and beaches, sea-grasses, and coral reefs.
The paucity of mangroves here is a result of the robust influx of freshwater to the coastline ocean zone of this ecoregion. Among the highest rates of rainfall in the world, this ecoregion receives over six metres (m) a year at the Nicaragua/ Costa Rica national border. Peak rainfall occurs in the warmest months, usually between May and September. A relatively dry season occurs from January to April, which months coincides with stronger tradewinds. Tides are semi-diurnal and have a range of less than one half metre.
Mangroves play an important role in trapping sediments from land that are detrimental to the development of both coral reefs and sea grasses that are associated with them. Mangrove species including Rhizopora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erecta and R. harrisonii grow alone the salinity gradient in appropriate areas. Uncommon occurrences of Pelliciera rhizophorae and other plant species associated with mangroves include Leather ferns Acrostichum spp., which also invade cut-over mangrove stands and provide some protection against erosion. In this particular ecoregion, the mangroves are associated with the indicator species, freshwater palm, Raphia taedigera. Other mangrove associated species are Guiana-chestnut ( Pachira aquatica) and Dragonsblood Tree (Pterocarpus officinalis).
Reptiles include the Basilisk Lizard (Basiliscus basiliscus), Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and Green Iguana (Iguana iguana). The beaches along the coast within this ecoregion near Tortuguero are some of the most important for nesting green turtles. The offshore seagrass beds, which are among the most extensive in the world, are a source of food and refuge for the endangered Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). Several species of frogs of the family Dendrobatidae are found in this mangrove ecoregion as well other anuran species and some endemic salamander taxa.
Mammal species found in this highly diverse ecoregion include: Lowland Paca (Agouti paca), primates such as Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), Geoffrey's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), White-faced Capuchin (Cebus capucinus), Brown-throated Sloth (Bradypus variegatus), Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcintus). Also found in this ecoregion are carnivores such as Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Central American Otter (Lutra annectens), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Northern Racooon (Procyoon lotor), and Crab-eating Racoon (P. cancrivorus).
Ocelots are found in a variety of habitats, including tropical forests, savannah grasslands, mangrove forests and marshes, and thorn scrub regions. They generally live at elevations below 1,200 m, but have been sighted at 3,800 m as well. Their primary habitat requirement is dense vegetative cover. Ocelots are found in open areas only when it's cloudy or at night when there is a new moon.
Range elevation: <1200 to 3800 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
The ocelot is a medium sized felid (11 kg), with a litter size of 1.4 kittens (1–4), and typically nocturno-crepuscular activity, but that could also be active during daytime (Oliveira and Cassaro 2005, Oliveira 1994). Throughout much of its range (including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Belize) this tends to be the most abundant cat species. The ocelot also reaches higher density estimates than its sympatric smaller species, usually >>0.15/km², and also negatively impact its small guild members. Its diet includes small mammals, birds and reptiles, but larger sized prey (>800 g), such as agoutis, armadillos, pacas, etc. are vital for the species persistence in an area. Average mean weight of mammalian prey is 1.4 kg (Oliveira et al. in press).
Comments: Habitats with good cover; when active by day, tends to keep hidden in dense brush (Emmons and Feer 1990). Inhabits dense chaparral thickets in Texas. Elsewhere, occurs in humid tropical forests, mangrove forests, swampy savannas, brushland, and riverine scrub in deserts. Where not hunted, adapts well to disturbed habitats around villages; often uses man-made trails (Emmons and Feer 1990). Mainly terrestrial but climbs, jumps, and swims well (Nowak 1991). Dens are in caves, hollow trees, thickets, or the spaces between the closed buttress roots of large trees; rarely climbs but sometimes may sleep on tree branch.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Home range in Texas reportedly is a few square kilometers (Kitchener 1991). In Peru, adult females occupied exclusive home ranges of about 2 sq km; male ranges were several times larger, exclusive of those of other males, and overlapped multiple female ranges; individuals often were solitary but appeared to make contact with others frequently (Emmons 1988).
Ocelots are highly skilled hunters, tracking prey by odor trails, and have an average of 0.9 prey captures per kilometer traveled. Once a prey item is captured, they eat at the kill site and cover the remains when they are finished. Similar to other felids, ocelots are well-adapted to their carnivorous diet, shearing ingested tissue from carcasses with their carnassials, while depending on strong digestive enzymes to help break down ingested proteins.
The diet of ocelots consists of 65 to 66% small rodents, 12 to 18% reptiles, 6 to 10% medium-sized mammals, 4 to 11% birds, and 2 to 7% crustaceans and fish. Their primary prey consists of nocturnal species, including cane mice (Zygodontomys), spiny rats (Echimyidae), common agoutis (Dasyprocta), opossums (Didelphimorphia), and armadillos (Cingulata). Although most prey weighs less than 1 to 3% of their body weight, ocelots also take larger prey, including lesser anteaters (Tamandua tetradactyla), red brocket deer Mazama americana, squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus), and land tortoises (Testudinidae).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; fish; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Comments: Feeds on various small to moderate-sized vertebrates: rodents, rabbits, and other small mammals; young deer and peccaries; birds (sometimes including domestic poultry); snakes; lizards; fishes; etc. Hunts and captures prey on the ground (Emmons and Feer 1990).
Ocelots significantly impact their environment as predators. Although they feed primarily on terrestrial vertebrates, ocelots are opportunistic hunters and prey upon many types of animals. Occasionally, they serve as prey for larger carnivores (e.g., jaguar, Panthera onca) and are host to numerous parasites.
- Toxocara cati
- Hammondia pardalis
Although predators themselves, ocelots occasionally become the prey of harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), pumas (Puma concolor), jaguars (Panthera onca), and anacondas (Eunectes murinus). Many of the characteristics that make them great predators may be useful as antipredator defense mechanisms (e.g., camouflage, keen senses, etc.).
- harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja)
- puma (Puma concolor)
- jaguar (Panthera onca)
- anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Known prey organisms
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 21 - 80
Comments: Fewer than 1000 individuals of subspecies ALBESCENS (Texas and adjacent northeastern Mexico to southern Tamaulipas) are thought to survive (Nowak 1991); 100-130 individuals in Texas according to Caesar Kleberg Institute, 1983. Unknown numbers elsewhere.
Population density in Costa Rica was estimated at 14-25/100 sq km (Kitchener 1991). In Brazil, Trolle and Kery (2003) used capture-recapture analysis of camera-trapping data to estimate density at 2.82 independent individuals per 5 sq km.
Life History and Behavior
Leopardus pardalis has keen senses of smell and vision. It uses its sense of smell to locate, track, and approach prey as well as to determine territorial boundaries. They have acute binocular vision that is well-developed for hunting at night. Leopardus pardalis communicates with conspecifics using chemical signals to demarcate territorial boundaries and vocalizations (e.g., mews and yowls) to attract and communicate with potential mates.
Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Comments: Nocturnal and diurnal; mainly nocturnal (Emmons and Feer 1990).
In the wild, ocelots live between 7 and 10 years. The oldest known captive ocelot lived to be 21.5 years old in the Phoenix Zoo.
Status: wild: 7 to 10 years.
Status: captivity: 21.5 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 20.3 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Ocelots are solitary and polygynous, with a single male home range overlapping those of several females. During estrus, females attract potential mates by making loud yowls, similar to those made by domestic cats (Felis catus). After mating pairs are formed, ocelots copulate between 5 and 10 times daily. The likelihood of conception per estrus, which lasts approximately 5 days, is 0.6.
Mating System: polygynous
Ocelots are year-round breeders in the tropics, but autumn and winter birthing peaks reportedly occur in the northern parts of their range (e.g., Mexico and Texas). Estrus lasts 4.63 days on average, and their estrus cycle lasts 25.11 days on average. Once pregnant, females create a den in thick brush where parturition occurs. Gestation lasts 79 to 85 days, and litter sizes range from 1 to 3 kittens, with an average of 1.63 kittens/litter. Young weigh between 200 and 340 g at birth. Females are thought to have 1 litter every 2 years.
Ocelots are weaned by 6 weeks old and reach adult size at about 8 to 10 months old. Females reach sexual maturity at 18 to 22 months old and may breed until they are 13 years old. Males may become sexually mature as early as 15 months; however, spermatogenesis typically begins around 30 months. Evidence suggests that sexual maturation in males is related to territory acquisition.
Breeding interval: Ocelots typically have one to two young every two years.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 3.
Average number of offspring: 1.63.
Range gestation period: 79 to 85 days.
Average weaning age: 6 weeks.
Average time to independence: 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 to 22 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 15 (low) months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 30 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 255.5 g.
Average number of offspring: 2.
Females alone provide parental care to their young. Juvenile ocelots are weaned by 6 weeks old and begin to observe their mother during hunts a few months after birth. They are independent at approximately 1 year, but may be tolerated in their mother's home range until about 2 years old. After dispersing, juveniles must find their own territories.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Texas: breeds in late summer. Births occur in fall and winter in Texas and Mexico (Leopold 1959). Tropics: breeds year-round. Gestation lasts about 70 days. Litter size is 2-4 (usually 2).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leopardus pardalis
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
Due to their abundance and broad distribution, ocelots are list as a species of "least concern" according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Major threats to their persistence include habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal trade as pets and pelts, and retaliatory killings by poultry farmers. Despite this, ocelots have made a strong recovery and it was estimated that there were between 1.5 and 3 million ocelots living in 1996.
Due to their popularity in Western fur trade, ocelots were nearly extinct by the mid 1980's. Concern over their potential extinction contributed to the formation of the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The selling of ocelot fur significantly decreased in the 1980's and is no longer considered a threat to their survival.
Once found as far east as Louisiana and Arkansas and now found only in southernmost Texas, Leopardus pardalis albescens is the only subspecies that is classified as endangered. This subspecies' declining numbers are likely the result of habitat loss, which is forcing individuals to have larger home ranges in order to support their daily prey requirements. However, larger home ranges may decrease mating opportunities.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2002Least Concern
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
- 1982Vulnerable(Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure
Reasons: Widely distributed from Texas to South America; populations are reduced and/or declining in many areas, though good data are scant; threatened by continued destruction of suitable habitat, exploitation for fur, and predator control.
Date Listed: 03/28/1972
Lead Region: Southwest Region (Region 2)
Where Listed: U.S.A.(AZ, TX) to Central and South America
Population location: U.S.A.(AZ, TX) to Central and South America
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Leopardus pardalis, see its USFWS Species Profile
Degree of Threat: A : Very threatened throughout its range communities directly exploited or their composition and structure irreversibly threatened by man-made forces, including exotic species
Comments: Clearing of brush for agricultural purposes has been a problem in the northern part of the range. Has declined throughout much of Central and South American range, due to hunting for fur (now curtailed compared to previous large harvests), predator control, and habitat loss.
Biological Research Needs: Determine home range area and food habits.
Global Protection: Unknown whether any occurrences are appropriately protected and managed
Needs: Protect suitable habitat from degradation. U.S.: continue, as needed, habitat restoration at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
In regions where natural prey abundances have been significantly reduced, ocelots may kill and eat domestic fowl.
From the early 1960's to the mid 1980's, there was high demand for spotted-cat furs in Western society. During this time, a coat made of ocelot fur could sell for $40,000 (U.S.) in western Germany. Ocelots were also popular as exotic pets, costing as much as $800 per individual. After the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international trade of ocelots and their by-products (e.g., fur) became illegal in most countries. However, one can still buy such items at the Managua International Airport in Nicaragua or illegally on the black market.
Ocelots may be beneficial to humans by controlling rodent populations that could be considered agricultural pests.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
Comments: Formerly intensively hunted for the skin trade, prior to recent restrictions on trade and changes in socially acceptable clothing styles. Reported to be much in demand for use as a pet, a live animal selling for $800 (Nowak 1991).
The ocelot (//; Leopardus pardalis), also known as the dwarf leopard, is a wild cat distributed extensively over South America including the islands of Trinidad and Margarita, Central America, and Mexico. It has been reported as far north as Texas. North of Mexico, it is found regularly only in the extreme southern part of Texas, although there are rare sightings in southern Arizona.
The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from 1972 until 1996, and is now rated "least concern" by the 2008 IUCN Red List.
The ocelot's genus Leopardus consists of nine species similar to the ocelot, such as Geoffroy's cat and the margay, which are also endemic to South and Central America. All of the cats in Leopardus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the ocelot being the biggest.
The following are the currently recognized subspecies of ocelot:
- Leopardus pardalis pardalis, Amazon Rainforest
- Leopardus pardalis aequatorialis, northern Andes and Central America
- Leopardus pardalis albescens, eastern Mexico, southern Texas
- Leopardus pardalis melanurus, Venezuela, Guyana, Trinidad
- Leopardus pardalis mitis, Argentina, Paraguay
- Leopardus pardalis nelsoni, southwestern Mexico
- Leopardus pardalis pseudopardalis, Colombia
- Leopardus pardalis puseaus, Ecuador
- Leopardus pardalis sonoriensis, northwestern Mexico, southern Arizona
- Leopardus pardalis steinbachi, Bolivia
Certain ocelot subspecies are officially endangered, although the species as a whole is not.
The ocelot ranges from 68 to 100 centimetres (27 to 39 in) in length, plus 26 to 45 centimeters (10 to 18 in) in tail length, and typically weighs 8 to 18 kilograms (18 to 40 lb), although much larger individuals have occasionally been recorded, making it the largest of the Leopardus genus. It has sleek, smooth fur, rounded ears and relatively large front paws. While similar in appearance to the oncilla and margay, which inhabit the same region, the ocelot is larger.
The coat pattern of ocelots can vary, being anything from cream to reddish-brown in color, or sometimes grayish, and marked with black rosettes. In many individuals, some of the spots, especially on the back, blend together to form irregular curved stripes or bands. The fur is short, and paler than the rest of the coat beneath. There are also single white spots, called ocelli, on the backs of the ears. Two black stripes line both sides of the face, and the long tail is banded by black.
Ecology and behavior
The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. In addition, the cat marks its territory with urine. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and occasionally shares its spot with another ocelot of the same sex. Males occupy territories of 3.5 to 46 square kilometers (1.4 to 17.8 sq mi), while females occupy smaller, non-overlapping territories of 0.8 to 15 square kilometers (0.31 to 5.79 sq mi). Territories are marked by urine spraying and by leaving feces in prominent locations, sometimes favoring particular latrine sites.
Barro Colorado Island holds the highest ocelot density recorded: between 1.59-1.74 ocelots per km2 (0.62 mi2), probably due to high number of prey, artificial lake, increased protection from poaching, and lack of large predators, such as cougars and jaguars, though they temporarily visit the island.
Ocelots hunt over a range of 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi), taking mostly small animals, including mammals, lizards, turtles, and frogs, crabs, birds, and fish. Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself, with rodents, rabbits, and opossums forming the largest part of the diet. Results of studies suggest that it follows and finds prey via odor trails, but the ocelot also has very good vision, including night vision.
Reproduction and life cycle
Ocelots mate at any time of year, but have litters only once every other year. The female may mate again shortly after losing a litter. When in estrus, she is sexually receptive for between seven to 10 days. After mating, she looks for a den in a cave in a rocky bluff, hollow tree, or a dense, preferably thorny, thicket. Gestation lasts 79 to 82 days, and usually results in the birth of a single kitten with closed eyes and a thin covering of hair. Litters of two or three kittens also occur, but are less common. The small litter size and relative infrequency of breeding make the ocelot particularly vulnerable to population loss.
Compared with other small cats, ocelot kittens grow quite slowly. They weigh around 250 grams (8.8 oz) at birth, and do not open their eyes for 15 to 18 days. They begin to leave the den at three months, but remain with their mother for up to two years, before dispersing to establish their own territory. Ocelots live for up to 20 years in captivity.
Distribution and habitat
The ocelot is distributed extensively over South America (including the islands of Margarita and Trinidad), Central America, and Mexico with a small population in southern Texas. Countries in this range are: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States and Venezuela. The cat is likely extinct in Uruguay.
Ocelots only inhabit areas with relatively dense vegetation cover, although they may occasionally hunt in more open areas at night. They are found in tropical forest, thorn forest, mangrove swamps and savanna, at elevations ranging up to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft).
The ocelot once inhabited chaparral thickets of the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas, and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas. In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona. On November 7, 2009, an ocelot was photographed in the mountains of Cochise County, Arizona. This was the first such verifiable evidence of the feline's presence in the state. In February 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed the sighting of another ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona. Most surviving Texas ocelots are in the shrublands remaining at or near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Brownsville, where only 30-35 animals remain.
The remnant U.S. ocelot population in south Texas has declined from 80-120 individuals in 1995 to less than 50 in recent years, with about half of ocelot deaths resulting from automobile accidents.
In Trinidad, habitat fragmentation, as well as direct exploitation via illegal poaching are major threats to the survival of the remnant populations of ocelots on the island. No empirical studies have been conducted to reliably estimate population status on the island. Historical records indicate that the species once existed on the island of Tobago, but it has long been extirpated there.
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- IUCN / SCC Cat Specialist Group: Ocelot
- National Geographic Society: Ocelot
- Ocelot Behavior & Care, by Mindy Stinner
- Ecology of the Ocelot and Margay
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly included in the genus FELIS. Included in the genus LEOPARDUS by Wozencraft (in Wilson and Reeder 1993), Murray and Gardner (1997), and Jones et al. (1997).