Posts Tagged ‘ocelot’

This serval was found wandering in southeastern Arizona. It was thought to be an ocelot. The ears gave it away.for me.

A supposed ocelot was photographed in southeastern Arizona. There have been at least two confirmed ocelots in Arizona. (And a jaguar has been spotted in Arizona, too.)

But this one was not an ocelot after all. It’s actually an introduced species that might even be able to colonize Arizona.

KOLD reports:

After further review, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said the reported rare sighting of an ocelot was another species of cat called a serval.

A serval is a popular African cat in the pet trade, the fish and game department said.

The Department uses a three-tiered classification system to rank reported sightings from the public based on the level of physical evidence available, the department said.

The presence of physical evidence such as scat, hair, tracks and/or photos and video can lead to a Class I designation of “verifiable” or “highly probable.”

A second-tier classification is one that lacks physical evidence, but is considered “probable” or “possible” because the sighting was made by an experienced or reliable observer that usually has wildlife or field experience.

The third tier classification is one that does not have sufficient physical evidence or sufficient details, or is otherwise of questionable reliability and would be considered “highly unlikely” or “rejected” as evidence for occurrence.

Friday’s report of an ocelot was classified as “highly probable” based on the photos and the paw prints taken at the location of the sighting. The officer responding was unable to locate the animal or retrieve additional physical evidence such as hair or scat.

Game and Fish shared the photographs with department biologists and other ocelot experts for an independent analysis. The effort helped definitively determine if it was an ocelot, hybrid or other large cat, as well as compare it to photos from previous sightings to determine if it is the same or a different animal from those sightings.

“Upon closer examination, some key identification markers make a stronger case for this being a serval, or serval hybrid rather than an ocelot,” said Eric Gardner, Nongame Branch Chief. “Although the pictures are blurry, two show that the animal has long ears, long legs, and appears to display only solid spots instead of the combination of solid spots and haloed rosettes seen on an ocelot.”

“This is a textbook example of why the Department attempts to makes such a clear distinction between a report of any rare wildlife sighting versus one with properly examined physical evidence. Positive identification by species experts or genetic analysis is required before any report is entered into our Heritage Data Management System as confirmed. It appears that this one may go down as ‘close but no cigar'” Gardner said.

There have been only two sightings of an ocelot in Arizona this year.

This animal is obviously not an ocelot. The ears gave it away for me.  But if you’ve never been to a nice cat house at a zoo, it’s hard for the average person to tell the difference. A spotted, somewhat larger cat with a long tail must be an ocelot.

Ocelots have rounded ears.

Ocelots also don’t have solid-colored spots, and their base color isn’t pale yellow.

Servals are very common on the pet market in the United States.

They are actually bred to domestic cats to produce a savannah cat– which I would call a savanna cat. Savannah is in Georgia.  The savannas are in Africa and northern South America. The serval lives in the savanna, but I suppose someone in Savannah could own a serval.

Servals couldn’t survive in the actual deserts of Arizona, but they could live near some of the larger river systems of the state.

Of course, you’d need more than one or two running loose in the wild for them to colonize, but servals are really common on the pet trade.

Arizona has pretty lax exotics laws, so servals could potentially colonize the state through escaping individuals or those that are turned loose when their owners decide they are too difficult to care for. This is also not the first serval to be found in Arizona. A three-legged serval was found wandering near Tucson in 2010.

If you think this sounds a bit far fetched, keep in mind that the only “wild” true antelopes in the United States are gemsbok, a type of oryx native to the Kalahari. They were intentionally introduced to New Mexico as a game species, and they have thrived.

I don’t think it is so crazy to think that servals might be able to develop self-sustaining colonies in parts of the United States. I’ve long thought that it would be just a matter of time before we had self-sustaining populations of Asian leopard cats, which, like the servals, are mainly kept to produce a hybrid with a domestic cat.  The Bengal cats that result from the cross have quite a following. (Most Bengals and savannahs on the pet market are usually more than a couple of generations removed from their wild cat ancestor. Fertility and temperament issues exist with the earlier generations.)

So Arizona is full of cats.

I am wondering how long until someone sees a jaguarundi, and after close inspection, it turns out to be a Burmese.


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