Arizona confirms first live ocelot sighting since 1960

Arizona Fish and Game confirms super rare ocelot

Arizona officially has an ocelot–a small, endangered cat that hasn’t been seen alive in the state since 1960. The cat lives mainly in Central America with a tiny population in Texas and another in Argentina. “Now Arizona can be included in that range,” the AZFGD announced with suitable excitement.

Ocelot range map from

People have known for a while that some ocelots wander into Arizona. One was hit by a car last year. The  Sky Island Alliance caught one on a photo trap in 2009, but the AZFGD for some reason doesn’t count that as official.

A few people had to be both smart and quick to get an official confirmation like this one. A guy out with his dogs Tuesday morning, (Feb. 8) in the Huachuca Mountains, figured out the small, spotted cat they had treed was an ocelot. He called Fish and Game and they sent an officer out right away to confirm its identity, get a picture and collect scat.

There’s still a chance this could be a feral pet, but it’s looking like a native wild cat. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, Arizona ocelots cross the border from Norther Sonora and are another subspecies of ocelot (L. pardalis sonoriensis) than the 100 or so (L.p. albescens) that live in southern Texas, mainly in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The population forks in Mexico and the two  branches don’t touch for hundreds of miles.

Where to Go to See Big Cats

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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