|The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), also known as the Painted Leopard, McKenney's Wildcat or Manigordo (in Costa Rica), is a wild cat distributed over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean. It can be up to 100 cm (3'2") in length, plus 45 cm (1'6") tail length, and weighs 10-15 kg (about 20-33 pounds), making it the largest of the generally dainty Leopardus wild cat genus. While similar in appearance to the Oncilla and the Margay, which inhabit the same region, the Ocelot is larger.
The Ocelot's appearance is similar to that of the domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a Jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Ocelots have been killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from the 1980s until 1996, but is now generally considered "least concern" by the 2006 IUCN Red List.
Taxonomy and name
The following are the currently recognized subspecies:
While the Ocelot is well equipped for an arboreal lifestyle and will sometimes take to the trees, it is mostly terrestrial. Prey includes almost any small animal: monkeys, snakes, rodents, fish, amphibians and birds are common prey, as are small domestic animals such as baby pigs and poultry. Almost all of the prey that the Ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself. Studies suggest that it follows and find prey via odor trails, but the Ocelot also has very keen vision, including night vision.
Distribution and habitat
The Ocelot once inhabited the chaparral thickets of the Gulf coast in south and eastern Texas, and was found in Arizona. In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas. The Ocelot's continued presence in the U.S. is questionable, due largely to the introduction of dogs, the loss of habitat, and the introduction of highways. Young male Ocelots are frequently killed by cars during their search for a territory. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from the 1980s until 1996, but is now generally considered "least concern" by the 2006 IUCN Red List. The Texas Ocelot subspecies, Leopardus pardalis albescens, is still classified as endangered as of the IUCN's 2006 red list.
Leopardus pardalis: (Linnaeus, 1758)
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