The ocelot, a small feline from South and Central America

The ocelot is one of the most beautiful wild cats of the American continent. Shy and territorial, he spends his days snoozing in the trees and hunting in all directions at night. Zoom on a small feline with false airs of jaguar.

The ocelot, identity card

The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is a mammal carnivorous belonging to the feline family. It forms with other species of wild cats the genus Leopardus. There are twelve subspecies of ocelots, the differentiation of which is done in a geographical. The feline lives in South and Central America but it is also found in the United States, in the southeast of the Texas.

Its fur, a good camouflage

The ocelot is a small animal: the male weighs between 7 and 15 kg approximately and measures up to 1.5 meters long, from the muzzle to the end of the tail. The female is smaller, weighing 6 to 11 kg. Its golden fur is dotted with black rosettes arranged in strips. White spots are behind the ears and around the eyes. Two black lines run from the head to the muzzle and two more line his cheeks from the eye. The color of its coat allows it to blend in with its environment: individuals living in the rainforest have a rather orange or ocher when those of the dry regions are adorned with a grayish tint. The belly always takes on a more tone clearor even whitish. Smell and night vision of the ocelot are highly developed.

The ocelot avoids open spaces

The ocelot’s range extends from the extreme south of the United States to northern Argentina, and to the island of the Trinity. Currently, the most numerous populations evolve in the basin of theAmazon. This feline is found up to 1200 m altitude, in a wide range of tropical and subtropical habitats, including mangroves, mangroves, coastal marshes, savannahs, pastures, thorny scrub and bushy areas. It also frequents regions semi-desert. In general, the ocelot avoids spaces with discovered and more readily frequents areas with high density plant or forest where its camouflage allows it to protect itself from predators and to hunt discreetly.

The ocelot eats the all-rounder

The ocelot is a carnivorous mammal whose diet consists of whatever it is capable of killing! Its menu thus includes hares, rabbits, mice, rats, monkeys (marmosets, tamarins), sloths, turtles, anteaters, guinea pigs, lizards, batrachians, possums, epic pigs, fish, crabs or even birds that he takes care to pluck beforehand. The feline hunts the night on the ground by moving discreetly with the tips of the legs and in the middle of dense vegetation. Occasionally, it can also settle on the branch of a tree to stay on the lookout for prey. Opportunistic, the ocelot sometimes attacks hens and calves.

The ocelot, a very territorial animal

The ocelot is an animal fierce who spends his day sleeping on a branch and hunting at night. A good swimmer, he is also excellent climberr which descends from the trees backwards, unlike the margay, another wild cat living in the same regions as him. Like most felines, the ocelot has a territorial demeanor and demarcates its domain withurine very fragrant as well as with visual markers like scratches on tree trunks or feces. The wild cat can fight to the death to conserve its living space.

The little ocelot is very vulnerable

The ocelot is by nature solitary. During the breeding season, the male leaves his territory to find a mate, then leaves on his own when fertilization is successful. After one gestation around 80 days old, the female gives birth to one to three young which are born blind. She cuts the umbilical cord, cleans the newborn baby by licking it and then eats it placenta so as not to attract predators. Particularly vulnerable (they only open their eyes after 15 to 18 days), the little ones remain hidden in their shelter during the first weeks of their life. They feed exclusively on breast milk while their mother takes care of keeping the house perfectly clean by eating their excrement. Gradually, it will bring them small prey alive to teach them how to kill before taking them hunting. The young ocelots will become independent around 6 months and will leave the territory after two years, when they reach sexual maturity.

The ocelot, an endangered species

Boas, big cats (jaguar, puma) and harpies (raptors) are among the main natural enemies of the ocelot. In the 1960s and 1970s, the animal was massively hunted for its fur, dramatically reducing its total population. Its listing on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and a change in mentalities helped to halt its decline. The habitat of the ocelot remains threatened by deforestation which rarefies its prey. The feline – today protected over most of its distribution area – is still subject to poaching. The animal can live up to ten years in freedom and twenty years approximately in captivity.

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