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Ocelot in El Aribabi, Sonora
Ocelot in Sonora, Mexico

Sky Island Alliance News News Release

Rare tropical wild cat found alive in Arizona: Sky Island Alliance, Patagonia, and Freedom to Roam in partnership document first live ocelot in Arizona

April 16, 2010. Tucson, ARIZ. – Remote cameras captured the image of an ocelot, a rare tropical cat, in Cochise County, Arizona. Sky Island Alliance, a Tucson-based regional conservation organization, recently photographed the cat while participating in the Witness for Wildlife program, which is supported by the Freedom to Roam Coalition and Patagonia , the outdoor clothing company.

Sky Island Alliance sets remote cameras to unobtrusively observe wildlife and assess wildlife corridors in Arizona’s Sky Island region. Last week, volunteer citizen naturalists participating in the Witness for Wildlife program retrieved images from one of the remote cameras in Cochise County. The image of the ocelot was dated November 7, 2009.

Taken by a remote camera, this remarkable photograph is the first verifiable record of this elusive wild feline alive in Arizona. Although a small number of ocelots live in south Texas, ocelots have never before been recorded alive in Arizona. Additionally, this record from Arizona places ocelots over 200 miles north in latitude from where they are found in Texas.

About the Ocelot

These medium-sized tropical cats have long tails and agile bodies, weighing about 35 pounds. Their tan-brown fur is darkly spotted with distinguishing parallel black stripes on the forehead, neck and shoulder. Ocelots hunt mostly at night and eat small rodents, birds and lizards. The ocelot was listed in the U.S. as a federally endangered species in 1982. Fossil records of ocelots in Arizona date back 10,000 years, but more recent historic records are rare and primarily evidenced by pelts.

This ocelot, alive in Southern Arizona, is so exciting to see, to take pride in. We now know that these incredibly rare cats are here with us, can co-exist with us, and have done so right under our noses,” said Sky Island Alliance biologist Jessica Lamberton. “That an ocelot is here in Arizona tells us that the habitat is healthy, and the connection between healthy landscapes is still a possibility for ocelots and other species.