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Ocelot Conservation Festival Raises Awareness for Rare Cat

March 01, 2021

You know the name. You’ve seen the logo. You own the gear. Maybe you even cheer for or play on one of the teams.

The Schoolcraft Ocelots.

Ocelot prowling in the wild

Ocelots used to range from southern Texas into Arkansas and Louisiana, but habitat loss, fur trade and vehicle accidents severely curtailed numbers. Today, it’s estimated there are less than 50 ocelots left in the U.S. Most are found in deep South Texas. The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresnos, Texas, cares for about 11 to 14 ocelots at a time.Across the college landscape, you’ll see plenty of big cats (Cougars, Lions, Tigers, Wildcats), fearsome animals (Bears, Rams), less-fearsome animals (Bulldogs, Cardinals) and birds of prey (Falcons, Hawks). Ocelot, however, is pretty rare for a school mascot. Unfortunately, the actual animal itself is pretty rare, too.

To raise awareness for this endangered animal, the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is holding a Virtual Ocelot Conservation Festival this weekend, March 5-7.

Ocelot in the wildIn addition, the Animal Health Department at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, assists U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services with ocelot health monitoring at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

When an ocelot is trapped, a zoo veterinarian will go to the refuge to give the ocelot a physical exam and full medical work-up. This includes a battery of testing to determine overall health and to detect internal and external parasites and infectious diseases.

In terms of Ocelot as a college mascot, Schoolcraft College appears to be the lone survivor. The former University of Texas at Brownsville was known as the Ocelots for two seasons (2013-14 and 2014-15), but in 2015 that institution was folded into the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. That school is known as the Vaqueros, which are cowboys or cattle herders.

Schoolcraft Ocelot facts

  • Ocelots was chosen as Schoolcraft College’s mascot sometime in the 1960s or 1970s after a student contest.
  • The Carleton family generously donated a pair of bronze ocelot statues.
  • Midge Carleton served as associate dean of sciences and assistant dean of athletics. Her husband was Ladd Carleton.
  • The first was unveiled in 2004 and sits in front of the Forum.
  • The second was added in 2008 in front of the Physical Education Building.
  • That one is named Owen, which is Celtic for “young fighter.”

General ocelot facts

  • They are about twice the size of an average house cat.
  • The ocelot is of six cat species found in North America.
  • They weigh anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds and are 16 to 20 inches in height.
  • Ocelots also are found in Mexico, Central America and South America.
  • They are carnivorous and hunt rabbits, rodents and snakes, among other animals. They have been known to stalk monkeys in trees.
  • The famed artist Salvador Dali had a pet ocelot named Babou.

Learn more about ocelots.