The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) belongs to the Leopardus genus of the Felidae family. Its geographical range spans the southern United States, Central America, and South America. It is found in a wide variety of habitats, including rainforests and grasslands.
Facts about Ocelots
An ocelot is about 2.5 to 3-feet long and weighs about 8 to 10 kg. It is twice the size of a house cat and has a 1 to 1.5-feet long tail. Its front paws are relatively larger as compared to its back paws. Its coat can be gray, cream, or reddish brown in color, and has various patterns of black spots or rosettes (or bands or stripes that develop as a result of merging of spots) on it. At the same time, its tail is covered by black bands.
Ocelots have the lowest resting body temperature in the feline family. They have two black lines on either side of their face like leopards. Additionally, these felines have one white spot on each of their ears, which help them intercommunicate with each other. These are known as ocelli.
Though they are often seen hunting in open areas, especially at night, they prefer to live in dense forests and land covered with thick grass. Their habitat includes dense tropical forests, mangrove swamps, savanna, etc. They are very good hunters and have an exceptional night vision. They feed on small rabbits, reptiles, lizards, rodents, iguanas, etc. Along with small animals, the ocelot's diet also includes small monkeys and birds. As they are good swimmers, they are known to feed on fish and crabs as well.
Ocelots are highly territorial in nature. Fierce fights for determining the territories are common in these wild cats. They mark their territories by leaving behind the strong odor of pungent urine and feces. A male ocelot generally rules over a territory measuring 3.5 to 46 square kilometers, while a female rules over a territory of about 0.8 to 15 square kilometers.
These felines are primarily solitary in nature, so the males meet females only to mate. Mating can occur year round as female that loses a litter, becomes ready to mate again. Female ocelots usually give birth to one kitten, once in every two years. At times, however, more than one―up to four―kittens are born.
The pregnant female finds a cave in rocks or a hollow place in a tree or thick bushes to give birth to its young ones. The gestation period is of about 80 days―one of the longest gestation period among small cats―and a kitten in born. They weigh about 250 g at the time of birth and grow very slowly. The color of the kitten appears dark at the time of birth, and it has very thin hair on the coat. Their eyes remain closed for up to 15 to 18 days after birth.
In ocelots, the infant mortality rate is very high, which is one of the main reasons of their population woes. Incessant killing of ocelots for their coat brought about a drastic decline in their population and the species was declared vulnerable in 1970s. In most of the countries, they are protected by law now. Even the fur trade is now forbidden by law. Conservation measures, like these, gave ocelot population that much-needed boost, and eventually the species recovered from being 'vulnerable to extinction' to make a place for itself in the list of 'near threatened' species.