Ocelots are beautiful spotted cats that once roamed from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana.  

These wild cats are a management priority for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Current estimates are that fewer than 50 of these wild cats are left in the U.S., with all of them residing in South Texas.  

The single greatest threat to ocelots is loss of habitat.  They have no place to go because the native vegetation has been cleared making it hard for them to establish new territories, find the shelter they need to rest, feed and raise their young.  That is why habitat restoration is a priority for the refuge.  Creating a wildlife corridor and restoring habitat is not just good for ocelots, it's good for all wildlife species that evolved to depend on the south Texas habitat, 95% of which has been cleared in deep South Texas. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead agency responsible for the recovery of this species and works with many partners, public and private, to ensure this beautiful cat will grace the Texas landscape for generations to come.  

When visiting the refuge, you may be one of the lucky few to actually see an ocelot.  They are quite different than bobcats, another cat species that they are often confused with.  Ocelots are smaller than bobcats and have a longer tail.  They stand about a foot high and the adults weigh 15-30 pounds and measure about 3’ long from their nose to the tip of their tail.  They have a long ringed or barred tail and their rounded ears are black with a single, large white spot.

Do you know the difference between an ocelot and bobcat?  

Helpful Links 

Ocelot Recovery Plan
Adopt An Ocelot 
Ocelot Conservation Festival   



What to do if you do see an ocelot (dead or alive)

Please immediately call any of the following phone numbers:

  • Law Enforcement Dispatch: (956)784-7608 or 7520
  • After Hours Law Enforcement Dispatch: (956)874-4664
  • Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge: (956)748-3607
  • Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge: (956)784-7500

Provide important information, including your name and a phone number where you can be reached. The location, time and type of sighting (dead or alive). Identifying marks that confirm it was an ocelot and not a bobcat. Directions to the location and details of the site.

If you find a dead ocelot, please stay with the carcass if you can until FWS arrives. If you are not able to stay, please photograph the carcass and move it off the road so that it is not visible to passersby. Be sure to let FWS know exactly where to find the carcass so they can retrieve it and collect important information such as internal tags and genetic information.