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Arizona Gets its First Wild Ocelot

Sky Alliance 2008 ocelot pix

For the first time ever, an ocelot has been photographed living wild in Arizona, the Sky Island Alliance announced. This small, spotted cat was previously found only in the southern tip of Texas.

The picture was dates Nov. 9, but just physically picked up from a motion-activated wildlife camera last week in Cochise County. That’s in the southeast corner of Arizona. Geography buffs will notice that Arizona doesn’t even touch Texas. We’ve got 50 miles of New Mexico in between. “This record from Arizona places ocelots over 200 miles north in latitude from where they are found in Texas,” the Sky Alliance says. It looks like its also 200-plus miles west.

IUCN shows ocelots in NE Mexico only
animalfiles show them in SE & NE Mexico

This ocelot may come from a population on the other coast of Mexico. Some rangemaps out there, like this one from theanimalfiles, show the ocelot living in both northeast and northwest, Mexico, but not in between. The preeminent international authority on animal species, the IUCN Red List, shows them only in the northeast and not even touching the United States. It would be a huge boon for diversity of the species if these two prongs of the population could meet up.

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are listed as endangered in both the U.S. and Mexico. They used to range up to Louisiana and Arkansas but were wiped out when farmers cleared out grasslands in the 1930s. Its other big problem is its pretty fur. The IUCN Red List says that worldwide the species is of least concern because it has a big population in Central and South America.

“This ocelot, alive in Southern Arizona, is so exciting to see, to take pride in.  We now know that these incredibly rare cats are here with us, can co-exist with us, and have done so right under our noses,” said Sky Island Alliance biologist Jessica Lamberton.

The volunteers who went out to pick up the camarea were part of Witness for Wildlife and was placed with help from Freedom to Roam, a group that works on wildlife corridors.

Seeing Ocelots in the U.S
They’re really hard to see, but the 100-some cats that live in America are mostly concentrated in the 45,000-acre Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the EDF says. Texas Parks and Wildlife says they’re also at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo; Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park near Mission; Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area near Edinburg; and Audubon’s Sabal Palm and Grove Sanctuary near Brownsville.

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