Chinese mountain cat
|Chinese mountain cat|
|Chinese mountain cat in Xining Zoo|
|Distribution of the Chinese mountain cat, 2015|
The Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti), also known as Chinese desert cat and Chinese steppe cat, is a small wild cat endemic to western China that has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals.
It was provisionally classified as a wildcat subspecies with the name F. silvestris bieti in 2007. It is recognised as a valid species since 2017, as it is morphologically distinct from wildcats.
The scientific name Felis bieti was proposed by Alphonse Milne-Edwards in 1892 who described the Chinese mountain cat based on a skin collected in Sichuan Province. He named it Felis Bieti after the French missionary Félix Biet.
The Chinese mountain cat has sand-coloured fur with dark guard hairs. Faint dark horizontal stripes on the face and legs are hardly visible. Its ears have black tips. It has a relatively broad skull, and long hair growing between the pads of their feet. It is whitish on the belly, and its legs and tail bear black rings. The tip of the tail is black. It is 69–84 cm (27–33 in) long in head and body with a 29–41 cm (11–16 in) long tail. Adults weigh from 6.5–9 kg (14–20 lb).
Distribution and habitat
The Chinese mountain cat is endemic to China and lives on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. It was recorded only in eastern Qinghai and north-western Sichuan. It inhabits 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. It has 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) elevation in Sichuan. These photographs were taken in rolling grasslands and brush-covered mountains. One individual was observed and photographed in May 2015 in the Ruoergai grasslands. Between autumn 2018 and spring 2019, Chinese mountain cats were documented in an alpine meadow in the southeastern Sanjiangyuan region.
Ecology and behaviour
Until 2007, the Chinese mountain cat was known only from six individuals, all living in Chinese zoos, and a few skins in museums.
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