18 July 2012 Coast to Coast: Ocelots in the Sky Posted by: Julia Collins | 2 comments | Share: “Coast to Coast” is a summer blog series highlighting some of America’s most imperiled wildlife. By using the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new state-by-state endangered species map, we will tell stories about native plants and animals in unique landscapes where Defenders will be focusing its conservation efforts in coming years. The next stop on our trip around the U.S. is an area in the Southwest called the Sky Islands. The “islands” are actually scattered mountain peaks that rise above the rest of the desert landscape in the region, disconnected from the much larger mountains ranges to the north (the Rockies) and the South (Sierra Madres). Because of the sharp contrast between the arid lowlands and the forested mountains, these areas often become a critical refuge for rare wildlife. Ocelots are one such species that rely on Sky Islands in Arizona for their survival. About twice the size of a house cat, the ocelot is a solitary and nocturnal animal. With a life span of up to seven years in the wild, they hunt prey small and large. Although sticking mostly to rabbits, rodents, lizards and medium–sized amphibians, this powerful predator can also take down animals three times its size. Their distinctive leopard-like stripes and spots help them elude predators as they take cover in trees and dense brush. Most of the ocelot’s remaining territory lies in Mexico and covers a large swath of South America, but the northern tip of their range lies in southeast Arizona and southern Texas. Sightings are rare in the U.S. Only four have been officially documented in the last 50 years in Arizona, the most recent in July of 2011. Lucky for us, however, one of these sightings included the capture of amazing photos and video of the elusive big cat, courtesy of Arizona Fish & Game. Watch as local ranchers relive the sight of a lifetime–an ocelot on their property: While cute and cuddly-looking, the ocelot is still having a rough time. Facing the deadly duo of habitat loss and poaching, the cute cat has been listed as endangered through its entire range. The major conservation move has been to criminalize the taking of ocelots and the selling of their fur within the U.S., while encouraging protection of their habitat. Ocelots also have international protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). CITES protections prohibit international trade of these animals, which helps keep them alive throughout the Americas. Ocelots aren’t the only critters hiding out in the Sky Islands of Arizona and New Mexico. They share their alpine refuge with jaguars, gray wolves, Sonoran pronghorn and many other imperiled plants and animals, but they all benefit from efforts to conserve this unique habitat. Learn more about the ocelot from Defenders factsheet and our previous blog post. 2 Responses to “Coast to Coast: Ocelots in the Sky” Querido August 9th, 2012 Really happy to hear and see that ocelots are still around in the U.S.! Thanks for the great footage and uplifting post. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap-Up Helicopter gunning kills 23 wolves in Idaho; Urge Secretary Jewell to abandon gray wolf delisting proposal — Call your representative by March 14; Washington wildlife agency urged to end support for abolishing federal wolf protections; The latest on Governor Otter’s wolf control board. Two Too Many Development Projects in the Ivanpah Valley While these projects most definitely directly impact a species that has been identified as threatened and is dependent on the habitat where they would be built, Silver State South and Stateline’s approval is most troubling for a bigger reason. You see, this isn’t just an issue for the Ivanpah Valley. Developers and agencies need to be conscious of how and where they plan energy projects all across the country. They need to look at renewable energy planning with a landscape-wide lens, understanding that building in the right places and making an effort to minimize environmental impacts from the start are essential. California’s Rim Fire: Opportunities Rise from the Ashes After California’s devastating Rim Fire, will officials take the opportunity to give nature a chance to fully recover?