Andean mountain cat
|Andean mountain cat|
|Distribution of the Andean cat, 2016|
The Andean mountain cat (Leopardus jacobita) is a small wild cat native to the high Andes that has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because fewer than 1,500 individuals are thought to exist in the wild. It is traditionally considered a sacred animal by indigenous Aymara and Quechua people.
The Andean mountain cat has ashy-gray fur, a grey head, face and rounded ears. The nose and lips are black with the areas around them being white; two dark brown lines run from the corners of the eyes across the cheeks. There are some black spots on the forelegs, yellowish-brown blotches on the flanks, and up to two narrow, dark rings on the hind limbs. The long bushy tail has six to nine rings, which are dark brown to black. The markings of juveniles are darker and smaller than those of adults. The skulls of adult specimens range in length from 100.4 to 114.8 mm (3.95 to 4.52 in) and are larger than those of the pampas cat and domestic cat.
On the back and on the tail, the hair is 40–45 mm (1.6–1.8 in) long. Its rounded footprints are 4 cm (1.6 in) long and 3.5 cm (1.4 in) wide. Its pads are covered with hair. Adult individuals range from 57.7 to 85 cm (22.7 to 33.5 in) in head-to-body length with a 41.3 to 48.5 cm (16.3 to 19.1 in) long tail, a shoulder height of about 36 cm (14 in) and a body weight of up to 5.5 kg (12 lb).
The Andean mountain cat and pampas cat look similar. This makes it difficult to identify which cat is observed and makes correct estimations of populations problematic. This can be especially difficult when attempting to gain correct information from the observations of individuals that have seen one of these cats but are not aware to look for specific features to distinguish between the two.
|Andean cat||Trait||Pampas Cat|
|2⁄3 of the total body length. Thick and blunt with six to nine wide rings.||Tail||1⁄2 of the total body length. Thin and tapered with nine thin rings.|
|Maximum width of rings: 60 mm (2.4 in).||Tail rings||Maximum width of rings: 20 mm (0.79 in).|
|Distinctive lines on sides of eyes. Rounded tips of ears.||Facial features||If lines are present, they are brown and less dramatic. Triangular-tipped ears are present for most of this species.|
|Very dark or black.||Nose||Light colored, generally pink.|
|Yellow and rust-colored or gray and black.||Overall color||Cream, red, rust, and black in color.|
|One consistent coat pattern.||Coat pattern||Three different coat patterns with different variations.|
|Uniform coloration of the base color.||Ear color||Patterned colored ears.|
|Rings are not complete; stripes are spot-like in appearance.||Front paws||Two or more well-defined, complete, black rings.|
Distribution and habitat
The Andean mountain cat lives only at high elevations in the Andes. Records in Argentina indicate that it lives at elevations from 1,800 m (5,900 ft) in the southern Andes to over 4,000 m (13,000 ft) in Chile, Bolivia and central Peru. This terrain is arid, sparsely vegetated, rocky and steep showing that the Andean Mountain Cat prefers a temperate and terrestrial habitat. The population in the Salar de Surire Natural Monument was estimated at five individuals in an area of 250 km2 (97 sq mi). Results of a survey in the Jujuy Province of northwestern Argentina indicates a density of seven to twelve individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) at an elevation of about 4,200 m (13,800 ft).
Its habitat in the Andes is fragmented by deep valleys, and its preferred prey, mountain viscachas (Lagidium) occur in patchy colonies. Across this range, the level of genetic diversity is very low.
Behavior and ecology
The Andean cat is sympatric with the pampas cat and the cougar. The viscacha makes up 93.9% of the biomass consumed in the Andean cat's diet while the pampas cat depends on it for 74.8% of its biomass consumption. Both cats depend on a specific prey to make up a large portion of their dietary needs. In some areas, the mountain viscacha makes up 53% of the Andean cat's prey items. This is because the other prey items are so significantly smaller that even though the Andean cat successfully hunts, kills, and eats a mountain viscacha half the time, the mountain viscacha is so much larger than the other food items, it makes up more substance. Other prey and food groups include small reptiles, birds, and other small mammals such as tuco-tuco. They also hunt frequently during the same periods. During one study, both the Andean cat and the pampas cat were seen most frequently during moonless nights; the second most sightings of these cats were during full moons.
Based on residents' observations of Andean cats in coupled pairs with their litters, it is thougt that the mating season is in the months of July and August. Due to kittens also being seen in the months of April and October, the mating season could also extend into November or December, although not much information is known about their breeding habits. A litter usually consists of one or two offspring born in the spring and summer months. This is also common in other species that have their young when food resources are increasing, which can influence the survival rate of the young.
The following table lists the threat to the Andean cat and proposed interventions to mitigate them:
|Priority||Direct threat||Indirect threat|
|1||Habitat Loss||Various forms of land use including mining, and water extraction, potentially increased by climate change.||Creation of protected areas and consolidation or improvement of existing ones; obeying with government and the industry sector; implementation of existing legislation; involvement of local communities on conservation and land use decisions; research on desertification processes affecting the Andean cat.|
|2||Habitat Degradation||Inappropriate pastoralist and agricultural practices; unregulated tourism; mining, oil/gas extraction; unregulated use of water.||Working with communities to improve livestock management; lobbying with governments, industries and local communities to regulate tourist activities; implementation of existing legislation; implementation of water management plans when existing; research on the impacts of habitat degradation on Andean Cat population.|
|3||Habitat Fragmentation||Agricultural practices; mining, natural||Working with communities to section of land that is left to be untampered and natural; decrease mining in areas that have Andean cats.|
|4||Hunting Not for Human Use||Conflicting with small livestock breeding; lack of knowledge of the species by local community member; presence of dogs, incidental capture||Conflict mitigation, community education, implementation of existing legislation; research on the most effective methods to mitigate conflicts and improvement of perception of the species by local people.|
|4||Traditional Hunting||Religious use of skins or taxidermy, hunting due to traditional beliefs||Education; rekindling of traditional knowledge.
Skins decorated and used in festivals, religious ceremonies, and folk magic.
|6||Reduction of Prey Populations||Hunting, presence of domestic dogs||Community education; implementation of existing legislation; research on predator-prey dynamics.|
|7||Introduction of Diseases||Dogs and cats as reservoirs and/or vectors||Increase dog/cat vaccination rates; decrease introduction of other exotic animals where possible.|
|8||Hybridization||Sympatric with phylogenetically related species (L. colocolo)||Study fund to increase population without inbreeding issues; research on possible loss of pure lineage.|
|Country||Law or policy||Protection offered||Year enacted||Number of protected areas||Sightings within protected areas||Unevaluated areas|
|Argentina||National Law 22421 of Wildlife Conservation||Prohibits hunting and/or trade of the Andean cat||Unknown||9 protected areas||Evidence found in 7 areas||1 unevaluated, 1 partial|
|Statutory Decree 666/97|
|Resolution No. 63/86 of the Secretary of Agriculture|
|Bolivia||Decree No. 22421||General and undefined ban on hunting, capture, storage, and/or conditioning of wild animals and their by-products||1990||8 protected areas||Evidence found in 6 areas||2 areas unevaluated|
|Chile||Law No. 19473||Ban on hunting all felids, with penalties of up to $6,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to 3 years||1972||7 protected areas||Evidence found in 7 areas||All areas evaluated|
|Peru||Supreme Decree No. 013-99-AG||Ban on hunting, trading, and possession of living, dead, or body parts of the Andean cat||1999||12 protected areas||Evidence found in 4 areas||8 areas unevaluated|
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- Palacios, R.; Villalba, L., eds. (2011). Plan Estratégico para la Conservación del Gato Andino, 2011–2016 (PDF). La Paz, Bolivia: Alianza Gato Andino.
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