Very Rare Wild Cat Spotted in Arizona
An endangered ocelot was seen by a man working on his yard in an area of southern Arizona. His dogs had been barking at an unidentified animal, which climbed a tree, so the man reported it to Arizona Game and Fish. One of their officers arrived and confirmed it was an ocelot.
Ocelots have been protected as endangered in the United States since 1972. Mainly they live in Mexico, Central and South America. Hundreds of thousands have been killed for their fur.
The last confirmed sighting of an ocelot in Arizona was in 2009. They used to live in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas, but now may only inhabit some very small part of Texas and wander into Arizona once in a while from Mexico. Many of the ocelots that used to live in the US were shot by ranchers, killed by dogs, or run over by cars. Additionally, their habitat was taken over. They generally remain in densely vegetated areas for protection. There are reportedly only about 50 ocelots left in the wild in the United States. Their last community is in Texas, according to the Forest and Wildlife Service.
They can move around greatly, and require a large amount of wild land in order to survive: “Overall, a good general estimate is somewhere around 500 to 800 acres of really good habitat can support one male and maybe two females.” (Source: ValleyCentral.com) They are typically nocturnal and hunt small animals for food, including fish, crabs, and birds. They weigh 18 to 22 pounds, but some are larger.
Much of their natural habitat, the dense thorn forest in the Rio Grande delta, was cleared, leaving them vulnerable to dogs and having to cross roads to find pockets of forest. The major cause of death for these cats now is being hit by cars. The Forest and Wildlife Service places radio collars on about five to ten of them to study their movements and mortality. Their population is so small inbreeding has taken place, and the service may introduce wild ocelots from Mexico to expand their gene pool.