Monday, October 18, 2010

Ocelot

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Though they look alot like Leopards, Ocelots are actually members of the genus Leopardus. Despite the name, actual Leopards are found within the genus Panthera... ahh naming confusion! Leopardus  contains a handful of small spotted cats that are found exclusively in the Americas. The Ocelot in particular inhabits a range between Texas and Argentina. It can be found in every Central and South American country save Chile.

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are small, but still larger than your average house cat. They can reach weighs of up to 30lbs and span up to 64 inches in length. Their coat is spotted and can range in color depending on their specific location. The spots help to camouflage them in their forested habitats, where they live solitary, nocturnal lifestyles. Ocelots can also be found in quasi-open areas like scrub land and marshes, but they are never found in completely open areas. They are territorial and will fight over range. Females inhabit much smaller sections, while the range of a male might overlap that of several females.

Ocelots are wonderful hunters, and take to the ground stalking rodents, amphibians, and even armadillos and small deer. They are also excellent climbers and will ascend to hunt birds and monkeys. An interesting difference between Ocelots and house cats is the fact that Ocelots are not averse to water, and are great swimmers.

Unfortunately, Ocelots have seen their populations hit hard. For many years, they were killed for their pelts, but this has now been deemed illegal. Deforestation and capture for the pet trade continue to be threats to the species. Ocelots are endangered in the United States, and are legally protected throughout the rest of their range.

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