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

These wild cats used to be seen with some regularity on the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge. Current estimates are that fewer than 50 are left in the U.S., with all of them residing in South Texas. Of those, an estimated 20 find sanctuary at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding private lands.

The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge ocelot population has been studied intensively since 1982. More than 70 ocelots have been captured, examined and released unharmed in an effort to learn more about these mysterious animals, including how to ensure they are always part of the American landscape.

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.  

Visitors to Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge often confuse ocelots with bobcats.  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.