New photography of an ocelot that has apparently persisted in the Huachuca Mountains since February 2011 was obtained Friday by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The new sighting was in the same general vicinity of the original sighting. Game and Fish analysis of the photography, taken by a sportsman whose dogs treed the ocelot, appears to confirm that it was the same animal. Photographs will be reviewed with other species experts to verify the Game and Fish conclusions.
The apparently healthy ocelot was left in the tree unharmed after the photos were taken. “The weight gain and growth of the ocelot is evident in the photos,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. “That it has remained in the Huachucas this long is very good news.”
Sportsmen provided Game and Fish with two sets of trail camera photos of the ocelot earlier this year. Photos such as these have provided biologists with critical information that may not otherwise be known, information that will help increase the understanding of this species’ presence in the borderlands area.
Ocelots are small to medium-sized spotted cats with a long tail. These cats have been listed as endangered since 1982 under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The present range for ocelots is in the eastern and western lowlands of Mexico, from southern Mexico through Central America and in the lowland areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil. On the fringes of their range, they occupy a very limited region in both the United States (a remnant population exists in southern Texas) and Argentina. Other animals such as bobcats, young mountain lions and servals, an African cat popular in the pet trade, are sometimes misidentified as ocelots, which is why verification is so very important.
Since ocelots are protected by the Endangered Species Act they should be left alone. If anyone encounters a cat believed to be an ocelot, the Game and Fish Department requests that photos along with observation information be reported immediately to the department or through the Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700.
Image courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department