Ocelots are members of the cat family with a beautiful leopard-like coat of fur. Originally they were found throughout Texas, but the clearing of land for farming and development has thinned their numbers to an estimated 80 to 120 individuals.
Seeing one in the wild is a rare privilege indeed.
Ocelots grow to about 35 inches long, and typically weigh 15 to 30 pounds. They sport cream colored fur with long stripes running the length of their bodies.
Their diet consists of rabbits, field mice, birds, and other small mammals. They’ve also been known to eat lizards, frogs and turtles. They spend their nights hunting and days sleeping in extremely thick brush. Ocelot kittens begin hunting at the age of three months, and leave their mother’s nest at about a year old.
Female ocelots can be fiercely territorial and protective of their young. They a re shy and weary of humans, making them an elusive creature for zoologists and wildlife photographers to observe in the wild. Cats of the same sex will, however, occasionally be seen sharing a tree or other resting place.
Like many feline species, ocelots mark their territory by spraying. Males will sometimes fight to the death in territorial disputes.
Though conservation efforts in South America help classify the ocelot as least concern in 1996, the species continues to lose territory and habitat in its once native Texas. Conversationalists are still working to keep the wild ocelot a part of Texas’ cultural ecology.