Seeing spots on ocelots

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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 has four ocelots—Lucy and Dale, and a pair of cubs that the two welcomed in late 2019.

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.

Dale arrived at the Zoo in 2018 from the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina to serve as a male companion to Lucy. The two can both be seen in the ocelot habitat on the Catwalk.

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.