YouTube personality Coyote Peterson is well-known for his outdoor antics, but while recording for his series Brave Wilderness in Costa Rica, Peterson had a rare encounter with a baby ocelot. Also known as “dwarf leopards,” ocelots are large cats that are well distributed across South America, Central America, and even parts of North America. They are smaller than other large predatory cats such as leopards and mountain lions, but still can be dangerous to humans. Perhaps Peterson is lucky he ran into a kitten – because the critter did not take long to pounce on him.
The ocelot wasn’t shy either. Pawing the YouTube host and nibbling him several times, the ocelot made sure to exert its dominance soon into the encounter. In the wild, ocelots are opportunistic hunters, like all cats, and generally stick to prey much smaller than themselves. They are solitary creatures and usually don’t travel far, although specimens have been found as far north as Arizona and Texas. A very small native population of these animals still live in Texas at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, while lone ocelots are very rarely spotted in the wild.
While they can be dangerous, ocelots are among the least combative of large cats. The species also has a reputation for being tamer than their bigger cousins, and are common as an exotic pet. Most famously, the eccentric artist Salvador Dali once owned an ocelot.
Judging from Peterson’s playtime with this young ocelot, we can see why these beautiful animals are prized as companions. However, we wouldn’t want to run into this kitten again when it’s older.