Scientific Name: Felis pardalis
Large eyes and superior visions are characteristic of an ocelot, which makes this cat a great hunter at night.
About three 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.
Though it is the most common cat in Costa Rica, it is very shy and rarely seen. The ocelot adapts well to a variety of terrain, wet and dry, forested and open areas.
Like most big cats, the ocelot is a nocturnal hunter, but is still somewhat active during the day. Its prey includes small deer, rabbits, rodents, reptiles and when available, fish. The ocelot swims surprisingly well.
An ocelot’s fur differs depending on their range and habitat. The fur of the ocelot is yellowish or dark brown and has black or dark spots and stripes.
The ocelot is a terrestrial animal, choosing to spend most of its life on the ground. Even though this animal has the capability to climb extremely well, it rarely leaves the forest floor.
Sometimes ocelots climb trees for protection, but spend most of their lives on the forest floor.
The name "ocelot" comes from the Mexican Aztec word "tlalocelot" meaning field tiger.
Ocelots require very dense vegetation to live in and to use as protection. Some scientists believe they prefer the vegetation, because it helps them to keep cool. But some scientists think that the dense vegetation is used for protection only. In any case, if the dense vegetation is disturbed, the ocelot is disturbed.
Individual ocelots, like many big cats, have a specific range that they live in. They mark their territory by leaving scent markings.
For centuries, the ocelot’s fur has been prized among people. This has caused the ocelot to be endangered throughout its range. Ocelots once were common throughout the southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. Yet, primarily due to habitat loss, there are less than 100 ocelots living in the United States.