The strikingly spotted ocelot is highly territorial and requires about seven miles of dense, thorny vegetation for hunting. Unfortunately, agriculture, urban development and roads have fragmented and replaced the species’ territory, making habitat fragmentation the greatest threat facing this intriguing, endangered feline.
While the ocelot is widely distributed from Mexico through Central and South America, the U.S.-Mexico border wall restricts its movement across political boundaries. The ocelot is also being hurt by a loss of habitat in southern Texas, caused by an expanding transportation infrastructure and urban development following the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Associated land-development projects — including the annexation of 17 miles of land between Laredo and the Columbia-Solidarity Bridge — also contribute to the ocelot’s peril.
Once hunted as “unwanted” predators and for their beautiful fur, today more ocelots are killed crossing roads than by any other human-made cause. Still, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has never granted the species much-needed critical habitat — and the federal government is still setting traps, snares and poisons that risk injuring and killing ocelots in the Southwest. In April 2010, the Center filed a notice of intent to sue the Obama administration in order to halt animal-killing activities conducted on behalf of the livestock industry throughout much of southern and central Arizona and New Mexico.