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Ocelot: The Elusive Small Cat of the Jungle printer.gif

About twice the size of a housecat, the ocelot is one of the smallest felines found in the tropical rainforest. Ocelots can weigh up to 35 pounds, and adults are generally about three feet in length. Do you know what the largest cat in the Amazon rainforest is?

Ocelots require lots of vegetation to live in and to use as protection. Some scientists believe they prefer the vegetation to help them keep cool. But other scientists think that the thick vegetation is used for protection only. In any case, if the ocelot's habitat is disturbed, the ocelot is disturbed.

Ocelots live throughout Central America and the Amazon basin of South America. They are nocturnal hunters, searching at night for their favorite foods, including small deer, monkeys, rodents, reptiles, and even fish. Almost all of the food an ocelot eats is smaller than itself.

Ocelots have the ability to climb trees for safety and to find food. However, they generally live on the forest floor. When an animal lives on the forest floor, it is terrestrial.

Ocelots also require a large amount of space, or range. Females need as much as nine square miles all to themselves. Males require even more space: up to 35 square miles. This large range keeps the ocelot population healthy and allows for plenty of hunting ground. Ocelots communicate their territory like other felines, through scent markings and meows and yowls.

If we a™re lucky we wi™ll get to see evidence of an ocelot. They are very timid animals, so the chances of seeing one in the wild are slim. However, I like to think that lots of ocelots will see us as we canoe by.

For further exploration, check out the following web sites:

Wilderness Classroom's Rainforest Library: Ocelots

National Geographic's Animals Facts and Photos

The Belize Zoo's Ocelot Page: Sounds and Video

Big Cats Online: Ocelots

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