The ocelot's main requirement for survival is dense foliar cover, which may vary from arid scrub to tropical forest. This flexibility allows ocelots to populate an area from southern Texas through Central and South America. Ocelots are terrestrial and mostly nocturnal. They tend to sleep hidden in thick vegetation on the ground, but may climb trees during the day to rest. Males and females will sometimes share a territory, which may be up to three square miles in area.
Ocelots have been hunted since the ancient Aztec civilization. The highly prized, distinctive coat is an incentive to poachers. Their numbers continue to diminish today because, along with demand for fur, they are trapped for the exotic pet trade. Deforestation combined with direct human threats put the ocelot on the Endangered Species List in 1972.