Chinese mountain cat
|Chinese mountain cat|
|Distribution of the Chinese mountain cat (in green)|
The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti), also known as the Chinese desert cat and the Chinese steppe cat, is a wild cat of western China that has been classified as Vulnerable by IUCN, as the effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals.
Except for the colour of its fur, this cat resembles a European wildcat in its physical appearance. It is 27–33 in (69–84 cm) long, plus a 11.5–16 in (29–41 cm) tail. The adult weight can range from 6.5 to 9 kilograms (14 to 20 lb). They have a relatively broad skull, and long hair growing between the pads of their feet.
The fur is sand-coloured with dark guard hairs; the underside is whitish, legs and tail bear black rings. In addition there are faint dark horizontal stripes on the face and legs, which may be hardly visible. The ears and tail have black tips, and there are also a few dark bands on the tail.
Distribution and habitat
Chinese mountain cats are endemic to China and have a limited distribution over the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Eastern Qinghai and north-western Sichuan account for all confirmed records of the Chinese mountain cat.
Chinese mountain cats occur in high-elevation steppe grassland, alpine meadow, alpine shrubland and coniferous forest edges between 2,500 and 5,000 m (8,200 and 16,400 ft) elevation. They have not been confirmed in true desert or heavily forested mountains.
The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken by camera traps during light snow in May 2007 at 3,570 m (11,710 ft) altitude in Sichuan. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains.
Ecology and behaviour
Until 2007, this cat was known only from six animals, all living in Chinese zoos, and a few skins in museums.
The Chinese mountain cat is threatened due to the organised poisoning of pikas, its main prey. These poisonings either kill the cats unintentionally, or diminish their supply of food.
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