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    « Wildlife Conservationist Certification Training | Main

    The Phantom of the Ocelot

    By NKW Naturalist, Peter Yingling

    Have you ever seen an ocelot?  (Of course, I mean in nature, NOT in a zoo )!

    Me neither, even though I lived in southern Arizona for 10 years (I now reside in Prescott, which is likely a bit out of their range).  But as a practicing naturalist, I spend a lot of time in the field - and I wonder how many ocelots have seen me.

    So what is this animal, anyway?

    It is a smallish species of wild cat,  Leopardus pardalis, about twice the size of a house kitty,  but infinitely prettier (alas, the human craving for its pelt has often been its undoing).  And if you should lust for one as a pet, there is a virtual look alike domestic cat breed available.  Fortunately, the ocelot is now protected over its rather wide range, from the southern US border (Arizona & Texas) to Argentina.  But there are only two definite records from Arizona in 45 years: one (ghastly) road kill near Globe in 2010 and now (Feb. 8, 2011), another from the Huachuca Mountains near Sierra Vista.  Right where I used to live.

    Fancy this: a chap heard his dogs barking & found that they had treed an odd-looking cat.  But he was smart enough to tell it from a bobcat (or mountain lion!) & quickly called  Arizona Fish & Game.  They sent an officer out in jig time, who verified the animal’s identity & photographed it.  Maybe they also learned something from their last encounter with a rare cat (the infamous jaguar fiasco) and this time left the animal alone (you may look up that story if you like).

    But then one enterprising gentleman (Charles W. Melton) somehow found the ocelot again and got much better pictures (visit his website and marvel).  He (rightly) didn’t tell how he located it.  Even so, I am not giving up nature photography quite yet.  For hopefully there are others!

    Moral: ain’t nature wonderful; you just never know what will turn up next.  That’s what keeps us naturalists out there.

    Website references:
    Charles W. Melton -
    Arizona Fish & Game -
    Wikipedia (Ocelot)
    And others
    --- Peter Yingling


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    Reader Comments (1)

    In my childhood (the 50's). I saw ocelots frequently. A woman in my hometown (National City,CA) could be seen walking her jeweled collared,beautiful ocelots on the sidewalks of our little town.

    May 5, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter)linda rivera

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