There is just something amazing about wild cats. Maybe it’s because their smaller domestic counterparts are our fluffy companions. And when we see the things our pets do (hiding in boxes, playing with toys, playing chase), they seem so… well, cute and domestic, that we have a hard time imagining the bigger, seemingly scarier cats do the same types of things. And then we see big cats, medium cats, and small cats, all behaving like kittens at play time, and we just have a soft spot for them.
We know all about lions, and tigers, and other great cats- we see them on wildlife documentaries, we see them in zoos, and if you’re really fortunate, you may see them in their natural habitat if you are on safari. But there are other impressive species as well, like the ocelot.
This beautiful feline is bigger than a house cat, with an appearance similar to a jaguar. Its habitat is primarily South and Central America, although they do have a range into Texas. The ocelot is considered the rarest cat in the United States, and is protected under the Endangered Species Act, and has been since 1982. Ocelots thrive in heavy vegetation areas in Texas, and with the massive growth and development in the state, their habitats are constantly under threat.
The sub-species of ocelot that calls Texas home is in critical condition, with numbers thought to be as low as 50 individuals, with the majority of those believed to be living in a protected area called the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. With protected grasslands and wetlands in the area, the animals are hopefully well protected from any accidental or intentional deaths by human causes.
Some highlights of the the ocelot include…
Yes, what makes them unique is what makes them vulnerable. Their beautiful smooth jaguar-like coat was such an attraction, the animal was historically killed for its pelt. With the protected status now, hopefully, the fur coat days are long gone for these beautiful creatures, and the only ones wearing their spots are them.
They’re Being Watched
Thanks to GPS tracking, the animals can be tagged and watched safely to track their behaviors and movements. Understanding movement, health, behavior, and habitat use are critical details necessary for researchers to continue to improve their conservation efforts. Like many wild animals throughout the world, GPS tracking is a relatively harmless way to make a big difference. Animals can be caught, tagged, and released with little interruption to the area, and the data gathered can be of huge importance for the future of the species.
They’re Primarily Nocturnal
Sleep all day, party all night. Protection is even more important when an the animals are nocturnal. Having expansive safe wildlife areas help to minimize the accidental deaths that could occur with human activity such as traffic and hunting. If you want to catch a glimpse of these guys, bring the night vision,(or visit a Texas zoo) because with so few in existence, getting a glimpse of the ocelot can be a rare thing indeed!