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Leopardus Pardalis, Ocelot

The Ocelot is an endangered species and has been listed as so since March 28, 1972. It can be found today throughout South and Central America along with Mexico and Texas in North America. These cats are warm-blooded mammals that live in a rather harsh environment that most humans would find inhospitable. Though the Ocelot is an endangered species it is at the bottom of concern being categorized as "least concern." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are in charge of deciding what is threatened and currently includes 86 mammals.

The fur of the Ocelot, with its dark brown irregular shaped spots and stripes, edged with black on a yellow/tawny background give this lithe, medium size cat a most distinctive appearance. The cats underlying coloration varies with its habitat, with the base color of its fur being a rich yellow in more arid areas to a darker yellow in forested habitats. The slender body of the ocelot can measure up to four foot and weighs in at twice that of a large domestic cat.

These largely nocturnal cats use keen sight and hearing to hunt rodents, rabbits, iguanas, frogs, and fish. They also take to the trees and hunt monkeys or birds. Unlike many cats, they do not avoid water and can swim well. Ocelots are adapted to be strictly carnivores. They have pointed fangs used to deliver a killing bite, and sharp back teeth that can tear food to shreds. Ocelots do not have teeth appropriate for chewing, so they tear their food to pieces and swallow it whole. Their tongues have a sandpaper style surface fit to clean all of the meat off the bone.

As far back as the ancient Aztec civilization, the Ocelot has been hunted for its fur and today, along with deforestation in much of its habitat, has led to the cats endangered status in some of its range. Once found in many areas of southern North America, Central America and much of South America, today the animal has almost disappeared form its range in the southern states of North America and are threatened by the conversion of large areas of plain into arable farm land, it is reported that as few as 120 ocelot survive in Texas today. In Central America and the northern countries of South America the ocelot is still to be found in forested areas but is at risk through hunting for its fur and also through trapping for the pet trade.