There are many phantom cats that call the Tamaulipan Forest home. One of the most popular cat is the Ocelot. The word “ocelot” comes from the Aztec word “tlalocelot”, which means field tiger. The small American wild cat is about twice the size of housecats. Their fur coats have distinctive markings in a wide variety of patterns. Each ocelot’s pattern is unique, with dark spots on an orange, tan and white coat.
Ocelots are found in the United States, Mexico, Central America and South America. In the United States, these cats have been found in Arizona and Texas. They have adapted to many different environments, including thorn scrubs, coastal marshes, mangrove forest, savanna grasslands and tropical and subtropical forests.
These solidary wild cats are nocturnal, which means they are active during the night and sleep during the day. They sleep in trees and bushes. Each night, they travel 1 to 5 miles to hunt, and kill one animal per every 3.1 hours of travel.
Ocelots are territorial. They typically have ranges of 2 to 56 square miles for males and .5 to 47 square miles for females. Male territories often overlap with several females’ territories.
Ocelots are not roaring cats: instead they “chuckle” when excited and may “mutter” to one another. They yowl during courtship.
Ocelots hunt prey on the ground and climb trees to hunt. They are carnivores, with specialized teeth for eating meat. They hunt and eat animals such as rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, snakes and fish. To prevent waste, ocelots will hide their prey and come back to finish it when they are hungry again.
Female ocelots do not conceive easily, consequently male and female ocelots mate between 5 and 10 times daily during mating season. The gestation period of a female ocelot is 80 – 85 days and will give birth to one to three kittens. Kittens are very small at birth, weighing only 7 to 12 ounces. Born with sealed eyes, kittens gain their first glimpse of their mother at 14 days old. They are then weaned at 6 weeks old. Kittens may live in their mother’s territory for up to two years before setting off on their own. Females become sexually mature at 18 to 22 months old and males become sexually mature around 15 months old. They live to around 13 years of age on average.
Ocelots are protected in the United States and most other countries where they live. They are on the endangered list in Texas. The number of ocelots in the US has been reduced to about 30 ocelots in an isolated population in southeast Texas. The habitat of the ocelot is threatened by agriculture, hunting for their fur and pet trade.
Join us for our one-of-a-kind outdoor Sculpture Trail Tour on Thursdays at 10am and develop an appreciation for the vast variety of creatures that call our region home. Each sculpture provides insight into the natural history of the Rio Grande Valley. At each turn of a trail, there’s a new creature to discover.