February 11, 2011
Arizona - Arizona Game and Fish Department officials
reported that a rare ocelot was observed the morning of Feb. 8 in
the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona.
An individual called Game and Fish to report that while he was
working in his yard in the Huachuca Mountains, his dogs began
barking at a cat-like animal which quickly climbed a tree. The
individual drew closer and suspected that the small spotted cat
might be an ocelot. An ocelot is a rare and endangered species of
The man called Game and Fish and an officer responded to the site
and confirmed that it was, in fact, an ocelot. The officer did a
non-intrusive, visual inspection of the animal from the ground
near the tree, and the animal appeared to be healthy. There was no
indication that there had been any dog-to-cat direct interaction,
as no wounds were visible on any animal.
As with all wildlife-human interaction cases, photos were taken of
the animal (photo shown courtesy of Tony Battiste, Portraits in
Nature). The officer was also able to retrieve some scat samples
from the scene.
Once the final confirmation was determined, the officer directed
that all humans and dogs retreat from the area, and the ocelot,
apparently unharmed, was allowed to go on his way.
Ocelots are small to medium-sized spotted cats with a long tail.
These cats have been listed as endangered since 1982 under the
Federal Endangered Species Act. Since being listed, ocelots have
only rarely been seen in Arizona. Only one other ocelot, an animal
run over near Globe in April 2010, has been confirmed in Arizona
since the mid 1960s. Another ocelot appears to have been
photographed by the Sky Island Alliance in November of 2009.
Ocelots tend to be smaller in size in the more northerly portions
of their habitat range than those individuals in the central or
southern habitat areas. The upper body coloring is highly
variable, ranging from grayish to cinnamon or tawny to reddish
brown. Dark markings form chainlike streaks down the sides of the
ocelotís body. They have a long, curling, ringed tail that wraps
around limbs for stability and is very indicative of the species.
The present range for ocelots is in the eastern and western
lowlands of Mexico, from southern Mexico through Central America
and in the lowland areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. On
the fringes of their range, they occupy a very limited region in
both the United States (a remnant population exists in Southern
Texas) and Argentina. And now Arizona can be included in that
range. Other animals such as bobcats and young mountain lions are
sometimes misidentified as ocelots, which is why verification is
so very important.
Arizona Game and Fish will work together with the U. S. Fish and
Wildlife Service to review materials from the site and the photos
to attempt to determine whether or not this was a naturally
occurring ocelot. Some ocelots are known to be kept as pets, and
occasionally, individual animals escape or are released into the
Ocelots are protected by the Endangered Species Act and should be
left alone. If anyone encounters a cat believed to be an ocelot,
all sightings and photos along with observation information be
reported immediately to Game and Fish at 1-800-352-0700.