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Wildlife Wednesday: Ocelot

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Wildlife Wednesday: Ocelot

This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the ocelot - a wild cat that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Lions, tigers, cheetahs, cougars … when people think of wild cats they often think of the biggest cats. This Wildlife Wednesday, we shine the spotlight on a smaller—but equally amazing—wild cat: the ocelot.

Habitat: jungles, marshes, and brushlands in South America and Central America (although there have been reports of ocelots as far north as Texas)

Ocelot trivia

  • Sure, the ocelot is smaller than other wild cats, but make no mistake—the ocelot is not a housecat. About double the size of a pet cat, ocelots bring down prey as big as rabbits, iguanas, monkeys, and even deer! They’re also excellent swimmers.
  • Ocelots are nocturnal, so they hunt primarily at night. They are very territorial and will defend their hunting grounds.
  • The ocelot’s unique pattern (somewhat comparable to a leopard’s) helps it blend in with its surroundings. It has an excellent sense of hearing and smell—and amazing vision in the dark.
  • The ocelot, because of its smaller size, isn’t at the top of its food chain, and can be preyed upon by eagles, pumas and jaguars, and anaconda snakes.
  • Ocelots are very secretive and sneaky. Chances are, even if you’re in ocelot territory, you won’t see one.

Why they’re threatened

Ocelots are listed as threatened, but are classified as endangered in some areas. Their beautiful fur makes them vulnerable to hunters, and at one time, ocelots were sought after as pets, regardless of their wild nature and unpredictability.

In the 1980s, ocelots were nearly extinct, but strong conservation programs have helped populations rebound. One of the biggest threats to ocelots today is habitat loss, as ocelots require a large hunting area with dense covering.

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