The first ever publicly released trailcamera video of an ocelot in Arizona provides a glimpse into the life of this rare feline.
This individual, nicknamed Lil’ Jefe by students at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson, has been occasionally photographed in the region in the past five years.
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“These remarkable videos provide invaluable observations into the behaviors of the most mesmerizing and mysterious of all wild cats in America,” says Dr. Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst, who released the video.
“We can tell all three video clips are from the same adult male [due to the coat patterning]; he is exquisite and is clearly thriving in the mountains of Arizona.”
There are records of ocelots in Arizona dating back to the 19th century, with five seen in the past decade.
Lil’ Jefe is a Sonoran ocelot, a smaller and paler subspecies, which is known to breed close to the US-Mexico border. The subspecies is named after Sonora, a Mexican state.
Neils believes that it may be expanding its distribution into the United States, as individuals move around to hunt, search for mates and establish new territories.
“I expect to see Sonoran ocelots continue to arrive in Arizona,” he says. “As long as we protect the integrity of their habitat and maintain connectivity with Sonora, these cats have the capacity to naturally recolonize lost territory in Arizona.”
Jaguars dispersing from Mexico have also been seen in Arizona, and both cats face a range of challenges, including habitat loss, poaching, and disturbances along the US-Mexico border, such as the wall expansion.
“We should prioritise protection of both jaguars and ocelots as they continue to disperse north from Mexico,” says Chris Bugbee, a senior researcher at Conservation CATalyst.
“One of the greatest single threats to ocelot recovering in the United States is the proposed expansion of the US-Mexico border wall.”