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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Populations estimates

  • No scientifically rigorous global estimates (Christopher Satter, personal communication, 2019)
    • Local population estimates and densities available for some regions
  • Most abundant in Brazil and Argentina (IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group 2019)
  • Much less common at higher latitudes — Mexico and the United States (US Fish & Wildlife Service 2010; Paviolo et al. 2015; IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group 2019)
  • Population trend
    • Decreasing (Paviolo et al. 2015)

Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Least Concern (2014 assessment) (Paviolo et al. 2015)
    • Some populations are threatened and are decreasing

CITES Status

  • Appendix I (UNEP 2019)
    • First listed in 1990 as Appendix I (no commercial trade)
    • Ocelots hunted by the millions until 1980s when international trade in skins was banned (Di Bittetti et al. 2006)

U.S. Endangered Species Act

  • Endangered (Harwell & Siminski 1990)
    • Listed in 1982
    • Ocelot recovery plan penned in 2010 (Federal Register 2010)
      • USFWS program focused on cross-border management between the U.S. and Mexico (US Fish & Wildlife Service 2010)
        • Creates two management units; one in Texas and one in Arizona
          • Texas/Tamaulipas Management Unit (TTMU)
          • Arizona/Sonora Management Unit (ASMU)
    • In Texas: protected with Texas endangered species status (Campbell 2003)
      • Proposed conservation strategy to work with local landowners to improve ocelot habitat
      • Proposals to trans-locate individuals from Mexico or to create corridors to connect populations (Janecka et al. 2007)
    • In Arizona: protected since 1970 by Arizona Game and Fish Commission
      • All wild felids are designated as "prohibited wildlife" (Harwell & Siminski 1990)


AZA Species Survival Plan

  • Created in 2011 (Kaemmerer et al. 2011)
    • Goal to maintain genetic diversity of the mitis subspecies population
    • Suggests additional Brazilian animals should be imported and artificial reproductive methods be used to increase breeding success

Threats to Survival

Habitat loss and fragmentation (Caso et al. 2008; US Fish & Wildlife Service 2010)

  • Roads break up the forest landscape

Take and hunting by humans

  • Illegal trade for pets and pelts
    • Between 1960s and mid-1970s some 200,000 ocelots killed each year for their furs (Sunquist & Sunquist 2009)
  • Killed to prevent loss of livestock
    • Ocelots have a reputation as poultry predators

Issues along U.S./Mexico border

  • Population isolation
    • Border barrier development and patrolling efforts cause hinder movement on individuals across the border


an Ocelot

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Arizona Game & Fish Department (2011)
Campbell (2003)
Caso et al. (2008)
Conover (2002)
Di Bittetti et al (2006)
Federal Register (2010)
Haines (2006)
Harwell & Siminski (1990)
Janecka et al. (2007)
Kaemmerer et al. (2011)
López González et al. (2003)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002, 2009)
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2010)

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