I’m a sucker for wild cats, especially those native to North America. One of the most exciting moments of my life was when my wife and I encountered a margay and jaguar while hiking in a Belizean jungle. But a moment when my daughter, then not even two years old, tried to coax conversation from an interested ocelot at the Oregon Zoo (“Come on, ocelot!”) has especially endeared that mid-sized cat to me.
Ocelot at the Oregon Zoo (“Come on, ocelot!”) courtesy of Kasey Myers.
I was surprised some years ago to learn that there still seem to be a few wild jaguars in the United States. And I was surprised today to learn that there’s a small ocelot population in Texas too. Unfortunately, I learned this because one of these ocelots was struck and killed by a car.
National Geographic provides a nice description of ocelots and mentions the Texas population:
Twice the size of the average house cat, the ocelot is a sleek animal with a gorgeous dappled coat. These largely nocturnal cats use keen sight and hearing to hunt rabbits, rodents, iguanas, fish, and frogs. They also take to the trees and stalk monkeys or birds. Unlike many cats, they do not avoid water and can swim well.
Ocelots’ fine fur has made them the target of countless hunters, and in many areas they are quite rare, including Texas, where they are endangered.
It’s a shame that one of these rare and beautiful creatures, already threatened by hunting and habitat loss, should have fallen to a car.