Creatures of the Amazon

By Mike Collis

Leopardus pardalis

This American wild cat, the ocelot is also known as the Dwarf Leopard and is found over many parts of the Americas from Texas in the north to most of South America, Central America and even some islands in the Caribbean. Once its fur was much sought after and thousands of ocelots were killed for the fur trade. It was put on the endangered species list in 1972 although it was removed in 1996 after its population increased.

The ocelot grows to a length of about 40 inches but the tail is usually up to 18 inches in length. Normally they weigh between 20 and 40lbs making it the largest of all the dainty wild cats. The ocelot's fur is smooth, sleek and its colour can be anything from grey to creamy to a reddy brown with black rosettes. It has large front paws, rounded ears with white spots on the back and large eyes. It has 2 black stripes on the facial part of the head. The tail has black stripes along its length.

Ocelots are nocturnal and they have good night vision, their prey consists mainly of small mammals but they will consume birds, lizards, frogs, fish and snakes. They are very territorial and will defend their home turf of about 7 square miles until death. They constantly mark their territory by urinating and defecating on trees and land marking the boundaries of their land.

Unless a mother loses a litter she will breed only once a year. Ocelots have no real mating season and mate throughout the year. When a female has mated she will find a suitable den to give birth and to raise her cubs. Mothers carry their babies for up to 82 days and usually have only one baby which will be blind up to 18 days. The babies are small weighing about 9 ounces. They stay in the den (usually a hollow tree stump) for about 3 months but they stay close to their mother for about 2 years. After this time they leave to make a territory of their own. Some ocelots have lived for 20 years but mainly in captivity.
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