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A rare ocelot is observed in Arizona

From the Arizona Fish and Game Department

A rare ocelot is observed
Photo Courtesy Arizona Fish and Game Department

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials report that an ocelot was observed February 8 in the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona. An ocelot is a rare and endangered species of cat.

A person who lived in the area called to report that while he was working in his yard, his dogs began barking at a cat-like animal which quickly climbed a tree. The individual drew closer and suspected that the small spotted cat might be an ocelot.

A Game and Fish and an officer confirmed that it was, in fact, an ocelot. The officer did a visual inspection of the animal from the ground near the tree, and the animal appeared to be healthy.

As with all wildlife-human interaction cases, photos were taken of the animal, and the officer was able to retrieve some scat samples from the scene.

Once the final confirmation was determined, the officer asked that  all humans and dogs retreat from the area, and the ocelot was allowed to go on his way.

Ocelots are small to medium-sized spotted cats with a long tail. They have been listed as endangered since 1982 under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Since being listed, ocelots have only rarely been seen in Arizona.

Ocelots tend to be smaller in size in the more northerly portions of their habitat range than those individuals in the central or southern habitat areas. The upper body coloring is highly variable, ranging from grayish to cinnamon or tawny to reddish brown.

Dark markings form chainlike streaks down the sides of the ocelot's body. They have a long, curling, ringed tail that wraps around limbs for stability and is very indicative of the species.

The present range for ocelots is in the eastern and western lowlands of Mexico, from southern Mexico through Central America and in the lowland areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.

On the fringes of their range, they occupy a very limited region in both the United States. A remnant population exists in Southern Texas and Argentina. Now Arizona can be included in that range. Other animals such as bobcats and young mountain lions are sometimes misidentified as ocelots, which is why verification is so very important.

Back To YBO Home PageWildlife officers are now reviewing materials and photos from the site to determine whether if  this was a naturally occurring ocelot. Some ocelots are known to be kept as pets, and occasionally, individual animals escape or are released into the wild.

Ocelots are protected by the Endangered Species Act and should be left alone. People who  encounter a cat believed to be an ocelot, should report the sighting to wildlife officials.

-- From the Arizona Fish and Game Department

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