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Seeing spots on ocelots

With its smaller size, the ocelot—weighing in around 18 to 40 pounds—may seem more like a big house cat than a wild one. However, one ABQ BioPark zookeeper likened this feline to a “mini jaguar” because of its strength and attitude.

The ocelot (also known as the dwarf leopard) has another thing in common with the larger jaguar and its relative, the leopard—its fur pattern resembles that of these two big cats. Ocelots’ patterned coats vary in color from cream to reddish-brown (and sometimes grayish) and are marked with black rosettes.

The ABQ BioPark’s senior female ocelot, Fireball, has been at the BioPark since 2002. She came to Albuquerque from the Carolina Tiger Rescue (formerly known as the Carnivore Preservation Trust) at 10 years old.

Fireball appreciates having her own space (like most felines, ocelots are solitary, usually meeting only to mate).  She also knows what she wants and can get a bit grumbly with keepers if they don’t bring her favored food items when she wants them.

Fireball is known as a feisty cat and is just as spirited as she was as a young cat.

The zoo’s other ocelot, Lucy, arrived at the BioPark in 2014. Lucy was only 9 months old when she came to the BioPark. She has come a long way since then and is lot more confident and comfortable with her surroundings.

“It takes a while for animals to realize that this is their new home and to get used to the sights, sounds and keepers,” said Valarie Chavez, senior zookeeper.

Because of Fireball’s age, the BioPark opted not to introduce her to Lucy, so the two live in separate spacesyou can see Lucy on the Catwalk and Fireball is housed in the back.

Did you know?

Ocelots have a wide ranging diet in the wild. While their diet consists mainly of prey smaller than themselves (with rodents, rabbits, and opossums accounting for the largest portion of its diet), the ocelot is amazingly strong and can take down animals as large as a young deer.

Our Actions Matter

Its beautiful coat once made the ocelot a popular target for hunters. Thousands of ocelots were killed in order to harvest their fur, and the wild cat was classified as a vulnerable species from 1972 until 1996. The species has rebounded to between 800,000 and 1.5 million throughout Central America, South America, Mexico and far South Texas, but remains endangered in Texas with only about 50 wild ocelots roaming southeast portions of the state.

You can help ocelots and other wild cats by:

  1. Not buying fur. There are a variety of alternatives to fur, including faux fur.
  2. Purchasing RSPO predator free palm oil.
  3. Reducing your carbon footprint to mitigate climate change.
  4. Becoming a BioPark parent to the ABQ BioPark’s ocelots.