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Overview

Distribution

Geographic Range

Felis bieti, more commonly known as the Chinese desert cat, resides most frequently in the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in China. It has also been seen in Qinghai provice and in the mountains of southern Gansu and northern Sichuan. This species has occasionally been seen in flatter, more desert-like terrain (Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996).

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Chinese desert cats are fairly large in size compared to the common domestic cat. Head and body length ranges from 68 cm to 84 cm and tail length ranges from 29 cm to 35 cm. They have a stocky build with relatively short legs. The coat is yellowish gray in winter, and darker brown in summer. Distinctive markings consist of horizontal stripes on the sides of the body and legs, and distinct brown streaks across each cheek. The tail is also striped with 5-6 dark gray bands and has a black tip. The ears are yellowish brown on the outside; the tips specked with short hairs measuring 2 cm in length. This felid has hairy tufts growing between the pads of its feet (Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996; Guggisberg 1975; Lumpkin and Seidensticker 1991).

Average mass: 6 kg.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Chinese desert cats have been reported living in the Datong and Daban mountains around Xining, at elevations ranging from 2,800 m to 4,100 m. Preferred habitat for this felid is mountainous areas where cover is available, usually in the form of sparse trees and shrubs. They typically occupy alpine meadows and scrub, although they may occur marginally in deserts. They are most often reported at high elevations near the western borderlands of China and Tibet (Alderton 1993; Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996).

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; mountains

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Chinese desert cats typically eat rodents, such as mole-rats, pikas, and white-tailed voles. They also have been known to catch birds, including pheasants. In past research, it was discovered that they hunt for mole rats by listening for them as they move through their subterranean tunnels 3-5 cm below the surface. Chinese desert cats then dig the moles out of the ground. These cats have large auditory bullae, large ears, and ear tufts, suggesting that these cats rely greatly on hearing for locating prey (Alderton 1993; Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996).

Animal Foods: birds; mammals

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Mating season for this species runs from January to March and the litters are usually born in May. An average litter size is 2-4 offspring. The age of independence, when the young leaves its mother, is 7-8 months (Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996).

Parental Investment: altricial

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C2a(ii)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2010

Assessor/s
Sanderson, J., Mallon, D.P. & Driscoll, C.

Reviewer/s
Hoffmann, M., Nowell, K., Breitenmoser, U. & Breitenmoser-Wursten, C.

Contributor/s

Justification
The Chinese Mountain Cat has a restricted distribution in China, occurring on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau at elevations from 2,500-5,000 m (He et al. 2004). There is little information about its ecology and status (Yin et al. 2007, Wozencraft et al. 2008), but it is generally considered rare (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It is threatened primarily by large-scale poisoning campaigns targeting pikas, presumably their main prey (Nowell and Jackson 1996, He et al. 2004, Chen et al. 2005, Yin et al. 2008). Skins have also been seen in trade (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Chen et al. 2005). Its effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature breeding individuals, with a declining trend due to loss of prey base and persecution, and it may largely exist as a single interconnected subpopulation. Further information on distribution and status may warrant reclassification to a higher category of threat (IUCN Cats Red List workshop 2007).

History
  • 2008
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 2008)
  • 2008
    Vulnerable
  • 2002
    Vulnerable
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
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These animals are currently protected in China under their classification as a CITES Appendix II species. The Cat Specialist Group in Beijing recently tried to upgrade them to Category I, which would require permission of national authorities to hunt or trade. Pelts of this felid can be found in markets in Xining although it is unlikely that hunting efforts specifically target the animal. A principle threat to the Chinese desert cat has been large poisoning campaigns conducted in China against pikas, one of their principal prey species. These campaigns were created "in an attempt to control 'pest' populations of pikas, which are viewed as competitors of domestic livestock for graze." One of the main chemicals used was zinc phosphide until 1978, when it was discontinued because it was found that it also killed carnivores who preyed on the pikas. Control programs that use poisonous chemicals continue throughout much of the desert cat's range and have eliminated pikas from large areas (Cat Specialist Group of IUCN 1996).

US Federal List: threatened

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Listed on CITES Appendix ii (as Felis bieti).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

None known.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

It is likely that these cats manage populations of small rodents in the areas they inhabit.

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Wikipedia

Chinese mountain cat

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.[2]

Since 2007, it is classified as a wildcat subspecies, F. silvestris bieti, based on genetic analysis.[3]

Description[edit]

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.[4]

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.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Chinese mountain cats are active at night; they hunt for rodents, pikas, and birds. They breed between January and March, giving birth to two to four kittens in a secluded burrow.[4]

Until 2007, this cat was known only from six animals, all living in Chinese zoos, and a few skins in museums.

Threats[edit]

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.

Conservation[edit]

Felis bieti is listed on CITES Appendix II.[2] It is protected in China.

Taxonomic history[edit]

Alphonse Milne-Edwards first described the Chinese mountain cat in 1892 from a specimen collected in Tibet under the name Felis Bieti after the French missionary Félix Biet.[8]

Some authorities consider the chutuchta and vellerosa subspecies of the wildcat as Chinese mountain cat subspecies.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 534. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b c Breitenmoser, U., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Sanderson, J., Mallon, D.P., Driscoll, C. (2010). "Felis silvestris ssp. bieti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  3. ^ Driscoll, C. A., Menotti-Raymond, M., Roca, A. L. Hupe, K., Johnson, W. E., Geffen, E., Harley, E. H., Delibes, M., Pontier, D., Kitchener, A. C., Yamaguchi, N., O’Brien, S. J., Macdonald, D. W. (2007). "The Near Eastern Origin of Cat Domestication". Science 317 (5837): 519–523. doi:10.1126/science.1139518. PMID 17600185. 
  4. ^ a b c Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 57–59. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  5. ^ He, L., Garcia-Perea, R., Li M., Wei, F. (2004) Distribution and conservation status of the endemic Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti'. Oryx 38: 55–61.
  6. ^ Liao Y. (1988) Some biological information of desert cat in Qinhai. Acta Theriologica Sinica 8: 128–131.
  7. ^ Yin Y., Drubgyal N., Achu, Lu Z., Sanderson J. (2007) First photographs in nature of the Chinese mountain cat. Cat News 47: 6–7
  8. ^ Milne-Edwards, A. (1892) Observations sur les mammifères du Thibet. Revue générale des sciences pures et appliquées. Tome III: 670–671.
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