The Oncilla of Costa Rica
Sometimes known as the “little spotted cat,” Oncillas come out at night and stick mostly to the ground in spite of their great climbing and swimming skills.
Oncillas are specific to the areas of Costa Rica and northern regions of South America. They have been somewhat extirpated from areas of Panama and Nicaragua. Oncillas inhabit montane forest almost exclusively. They can be observed at Corcovado National Park, Sirena Biological Station, Manuel Antonio National Park, La Amistad International Park and Chirripó National Park in Costa Rica.
Mating & Reproduction
Oncillas go into heat (estrus) for three to nine days at a time. They make short gurgling sounds when they are around each other which may be to indicate that they are ready to mate. Once impregnated, Oncillas gestate for 74 to 76 days. They produce a brood of one to three kittens that are born blind. After eight to seventeen days, the young kittens’ eyes will begin to open. They begin taking solid food at around 38 to 56 days, but don’t fully wean until three months have passed.
Oncillas are obligate carnivores which means that they must eat meat to survive. They eat small vertebrates, eggs, small reptiles and small amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. They also eat grass to aid in digestion. They are primarily nocturnal hunters, but in areas where their main food source is diurnal lizards they are not nocturnal. Oncillas are less arboreal than the closely related ocelots. They do much of their hunting on the ground.
Young Oncillas purr in the same manner as domestic cats.
Oncillas are sometimes poached for their fur which is then used for making clothing items. This and deforestation contribute to its being listed as a vulnerable species in terms of conservation.
Hybrid species have been produced between Oncillas and Geoffroy’s Cats and Oncillas and the Pampas Cat.
Where to see it in Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park, Sirena Biological Station, Manuel Antonio National Park, La Amistad International Park, Chirripó National Park
Diet: small vertebrates, eggs, small reptiles, small amphibians, grass
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Habitat: montane forest
Size: length=38-59 cm weight=1.5-3 kg tail=20-42 cm
Species: Leopardus tigrinus