An ocelot radio collared in January

An Ocelot
by Graham Reynolds, Earthwatch Team Member

Jeff, Serena, and I were checking traps on one of the trails called Central. We got to the end of the trail and decided to go down into a riverbed about 30 meters away to look for tracks and to get a better look at some nearby birds. I had decided to go up the riverbed east of the trail to continue looking for tracks.

About 100 meters east of the others, I spotted a very clear ocelot track in the sand. I soon found the whole trail. I whistled to Jeff and Serena. We recorded the location of the trail. The tracks showed that an ocelot had moved through the riverbed the night before and was heading west.

As we were recording the tracks and taking pictures, we heard a noise in the bushes several feet away, on the north bank of the dry riverbed. We crouched down and stayed silent. Jeff had his binoculars in his hands and I had my camera.

Suddenly, at 10:10 AM, an ocelot emerged out of the bushes right in front of us! The cat headed straight for Jeff and when he saw Jeff, he turned and walked right in front of Serena and me. The ocelot was not scared at all and hardly even noticed us as he moved diagonally across the riverbed. I took a picture of the ocelot as he trotted away in a southwest direction.

When he was gone, we looked at each other in amazement and then cheered loudly. We were extremely lucky to see this ocelot just walking around, and even luckier to see him in broad daylight, not even ten feet away from us. We were very excited.

We identified the ocelot as an adult male because his head was slightly larger in proportion to the radio collar around his neck. This radio collar means that he had been captured before by Carlos. We wrote this information down and headed back to the rendezvous point, where we told the rest of the team about our amazing sighting. Only once in five years has anyone seen an ocelot in daylight and not in a trap, but just walking around.

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are small cats with beautiful markings. They range from grayish to orange, with black spots all over them. Carlos estimates that there are between 600 to 800 ocelots that live in the Chamela/Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve. They are predatory and mostly nocturnal. They feed on mice, birds, and other small creatures. They are beautiful animals, and I encourage you to look at pictures of them and learn more about them.

This photo was taken by the January Earthwatch Team. Like the coati we caught, this ocelot was given a shot of anesthesia, measured and weighed, checked for parasites (ticks and fleas), tattooed with a number, and then released.