Twice the size of house cats, ocelots have spotted fur and tufted ears, and once ranged in large numbers from Arizona to Arkansas and Louisiana.

But the fur and pet trades decimated the population, and in the United States fewer than 60 ocelots remain in two small populations 20 miles apart in south Texas near the Mexican border. Today, this endangered cat's biggest threat is habitat loss caused by the expansion of agricultural lands, highways and the new wall at the Mexican border, a barrier that, if completed, would forever block U.S. ocelots from breeding with those in Mexico.

To ensure the ocelot's future, we need to enlarge the amount of protected habitat. 

Defenders' Impact

Defenders is working hard with coalition partners to prevent construction of a border wall that would divide ocelots, Mexican gray wolves and other sensitive species into isolated U.S. and Mexican populations. We were instrumental in ensuring that Congress exempted the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge from border wall appropriations in 2018.

We are working to stop construction of open-pit mines in ocelot habitat in the Santa Rita and Patagonia mountains of Arizona, as well as opposing liquified natural gas plants in Texas that would undermine ocelot recovery by blocking the most important north-south migration corridor. 


In the United States and throughout their range, ocelots are impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation, vehicle strikes, unintentional poisoning from rodenticides, and hunting for fur and the pet trade.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
 Least Concern
 Appendix I
What You Can Do

Help us raise awareness of the ocelot’s presence in Texas. Speak up for ocelots and the continued support of endangered species protections, like the Endangered Species Act. 

Support efforts to protect private, state and federal land that is prime habitat for ocelots. Advocate for better road planning and wildlife crossings on Texas roads.

Raise your voice in opposition to liquid natural gas development in South Texas and the border wall, both of which will destroy native habitat and cut off the ocelot population from habitat in Mexico. 

If you live in ocelot country, practice proven coexistence techniques. Slow down and watch the roads for ocelots if you are driving through their habitat. Encourage poison-free rodent control techniques. Encourage hunters to use lead free, non-toxic ammunition. Adopt “Leave No Trace” ethics and organize clean-up activities in South Texas. Support and participate in habitat restoration planting days.

Latin Name
Leopardus pardalis
15-35 pounds, 16-20 inches tall, and 28-35 inches long
10-13 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity

The ocelot ranges throughout the Western Hemisphere from southern Texas to northern Argentina. Once documented ranging as far north and east in the United States, as Arkansas and Louisiana, ocelots are currently found only in extreme southern Texas. This species lives in a variety of vegetated habitats, from tropical and subtropical rainforests in Central and South America to semi-arid thornscrub in Texas and northern Mexico. Ocelots depend on dense vegetation for protection, denning, raising young, and hunting.


An estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million are found throughout the Western Hemisphere. In the U.S., fewer than 60 ocelots remain in two tiny populations in southeast Texas. Additionally, occasional migrants enter southern Arizona from Mexico. 


Ocelots are strongly nocturnal, resting in trees or dense brush during the day. They are very active, traveling from one to five miles per night. Males usually travel farther than females, especially to look for mates.


Kittens are independent after about one year but may stay with their mother for an additional year.
Mating Season: October for ocelots in Texas, spring months in Central America
Gestation: 79-85 days
Litter size: 1-3


Ocelots are opportunistic hunters and eat a range of animals including rodents, rabbits, young deer, birds, snakes, lizards, and fish.


Washington, DC

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