“I think I saw an ocelot. It crossed the road in front of me-just outside of Oklahoma City.”
“What do you think of these game camera photos? Is this a serval or maybe an ocelot?”
“What kind of wild cat species is this? Has something escaped from the zoo?”
These questions, comments and conversations have increased dramatically over the last 2-3 years.
People have always submitted photos of cats caught on game cameras or cell phones to ask for evaluation. They are usually to distinguish bobcats versus cougars or people thinking the might have the image of an elusive “black panther”.
The phenomenon I mention now is different and I believe it involves a different kind of cat on the American landscape.
Hybrid and designer cat breeds are popular in America.
Everything from the relatively common Bengal cat (originates with Asian leopard cat/domestic hybrid) to savannah cats (serval/domestic hybrid) to designer cats like the ocicat all look wild, look exotic and to a certain extent are and they are now entering the woods and wildlands and confusing the public.
Here are a couple of photos sent to me by Amy Chambers in San Patricio, TX. She thought she might have captured an ocelot on camera but at closer examination this is without a doubt a domestic and most likely a Bengal or Bengal hybrid.
Bengal cats come in various colors, sizes and patterns. The basic look mimics the original stock of Asian leopard cat in terms of pattern.
Our Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® Bengal “Purity” is what is called a “snow leopard” morph with the white/gray mix and blue eyes. The pattern though is Asian leopard cat or even ocelot-like.
There are even breeders who specifically breed for the spot pattern close to ocelots or Asian leopard cats and interestingly we discovered one about 20 miles from where this cat was captured on a game camera.
Even though our Bengal is sweet she has a little wild in her and has incredible jumping abilities and predatory instincts. We never allow her near our birds or small mammals. And she is probably four generations removed from original hybridization.
Savannahs are out there that are half serval and some of them are wild enough in fact that they end up at sanctuaries due to them not being quite as cuddly as some domestic cats.
People allow their cats to go outside. Cats escape houses and pens and as we know with standard-edition feral cats they are everywhere.
I believe we will see more of these types of cats in the wild and they will contribute to many people thinking they have seen everything from a long-tailed bobcat to ocelots and leopards.
I will write more on this issue but wanted to get this out there to let people know some of the beautiful, spotted, long-tailed cats they are seeing in the woods may be exotic and even feral but not necessarily wild.
The era of the exotic hybrid cat has begun in the wild areas of America as I have personally received photos and videos to identify from Texas, Michigan and New York.
If you think you have a photos or videos. of one of these cats or a spotted cat you cannot identify email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chester Moore, Jr.