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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Order Carnivora : Family Felidae : Felis pardalis Linnaeus

Ocelot (Felis pardalis).Description. A medium-sized, spotted and blotched cat with a moderately long tail; about the size of a bobcat but spots much larger, tail much longer, and pelage shorter; differs from the jaguar in much smaller size and in presence of parallel black stripes on nape and oblique stripes near shoulder; upperparts grayish or buffy, heavily marked with blackish spots, small rings, blotches, and short bars; underparts white, spotted with black; tail spotted, and ringed with black; both sexes colored alike. Dental formula as in the mountain lion. External measurements average: (males), total length, 1,135 mm; tail, 355 mm; hind foot, 157 mm; (females), 930-285-135 mm. Weight, 10-15 kg.

Species distribution mapDistribution in Texas. Once ranged over southern part of Texas with occasional records from north and central Texas; now restricted to several isolated patches of suitable habitat in three or four counties of Rio Grande Plains.

Habits. The ocelot is a neotropical felid that once inhabited the dense, almost impenetrable chaparral thickets of South Texas, the Gulf coast, and the Big Thicket of eastern Texas. Today, it is found only in several small, isolated patches of suitable habitat remaining in South Texas and is on the verge of completely disappearing from the state. It is listed as "endangered" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In Kerr County, Texas, where ocelots occurred as late as 1902, Howard Lacey reported that he found them in the roughest, rockiest part of the dense cedar brakes. He was of the opinion that they travel in pairs and that they often rest in the trees and so escape the dogs.

Ocelots feed on a variety of small mammals and birds, as well as some reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Lacey reported that they are fond of young pigs, kids, and lambs; E.W. Nelson says that birds, including domestic poultry, are captured on their roosts, and rabbits, wood rats, and mice of many kinds, as well as snakes and other reptiles, are important items in their diet.

The den is a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or the densest part of a thorny thicket. The two young are born in September, October, or November. Like other young of the cat family, they are covered with a scanty growth of hair, and the eyes are closed at birth. Gestation has been estimated to last 70-80 days and captive kittens opened their eyes 15-18 days after birth.

Remarks. Mike Tewes, of the Caesar Kleberg Research Foundation in Kingsville, Texas, has been studying the ecology and conservation of the ocelot in Texas. He has documented aspects of their biology and natural history and is developing a habitat conservation plan to preserve this species in Texas.