The Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), also known as the Painted Leopard, McKenney's Wildcat, Jaguatirica (in Brazil) or Manigordo (in Costa Rica), is a wild cat distributed over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean.
The Ocelot's appearance is similar to that of the domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a Clouded Leopard or Jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Ocelots have been killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from the 1980s until 1996, but is now generally considered "least concern" by the 2006 IUCN Red List.
The Ocelot is mostly nocturnal and very territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share its spot with another Ocelot of the same sex. When mating, the female will find a den in a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or a dense (preferably thorny) thicket. The gestation period is estimated to be 70 days. Generally the female will have 2–4 kittens, born in the autumn with their eyes closed and a thin covering of hair.
While the Ocelot is well equipped for an arboreal lifestyle and will sometimes take to the trees, it is mostly terrestrial. Ocelots hunt over a range of , taking mostly small mammals (deer, rabbits and various rodents), reptiles and amphibians (lizards, frogs, and turtles), crabs, birds and fish. Almost all of the prey that the Ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself. Studies suggest that it follows and finds prey via odor trails, but the Ocelot also has very keen vision, including night vision.
The Ocelot once inhabited the chaparral thickets of the Gulf coast in south and eastern Texas, and was found in Arizona. In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas. The Ocelot's continued presence in the U.S. is questionable, due largely to the introduction of dogs, the loss of habitat, and the introduction of highways. Young male Ocelots are frequently killed by cars during their search for a territory. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from the 1980s until 1996, but is now generally considered "least concern" by the 2006 IUCN Red List. The Texas Ocelot subspecies, Leopardus pardalis albescens, is still classified as endangered as of the IUCN's 2006 red list.