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Overview

Distribution

Felis bieti (Chinese mountain cat) is the only know endemic cat of China. It is restricted to the mountains of China and has been spotted in the provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet. It is mainly confined to high elevation grasslands and in 2004 was found only in the north western regions of Sichuan and the eastern half of Qinghai. Records of its presence in more northern desert regions are likely based on misidentifications of domestic cats and of asiatic wildcats, Felis silvestris ornata.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

  • He, L., R. Garcia-Perea, M. Li, F. Wei. 2004. Distribution and conservation status of the endemic Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti. Oryx, 38: 55-61.
  • IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, , Kristin Nowell, Peter Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: Status survey and conservation action plan. Cambridge, UK: IUCN Publication Services Unit.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Chinese mountain cats have a broad and sturdy build. The legs and tail are relatively short, the tail being approximately 40% of the body length. The pelt changes color according to season, being light grey in winter and brown during the summer. The sides, legs, and tail are covered in dark grey stripes and the tip of the tail is black. There are dark brown tufts on the tip of each ear.

A distinctive feature is the large size of its auditory bullae, the hollow bony structures that enclose the middle and inner ears of placental mammals; in this species they represent 25% of the skull length.

Range mass: 4 to 9 kg.

Range length: 60 to 85 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Ecology

Habitat

Chinese mountain cats live in alpine meadows, steppe grasslands, mountain shrub lands, and on the edges of high elevation coniferous forests from 2500 to 5000 meters. Their dense fur helps them withstand the extreme mountain climate. Although Felis bieti is sometimes referred to as the "Chinese desert cat", this species is not reported to live in desert areas.

Range elevation: 2500 to 5000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest ; mountains

  • Sanderson, J., Y. Yufeng, D. Naktsang. 2010. Of the only endemic cat species in China. CATnews, Special Issue 5: 18-21.
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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Trophic Strategy

Chinese mountain cats are carnivores; they eat primarily small mammals such as pikas, zokors (muroid rodents that resemble mole rats), and other rodents. They use their keen sense of hearing, accommodated by large auditory bullae, to track prey. They hunt fossorial prey, such as zokors, by listening to them in their tunnels, and then digging them up. In addition to catching small mammals, they may catch pheasants and other birds.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Associations

The ecology of Chinese mountain cats has never been formally studied and hence their role in the ecosystem is unknown. They probably influence the population sizes of some prey species.

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Chinese mountain cats are top predators and the adults are not preyed on by other animals. The young are occasionally taken by wolves, brown bears, and other large predators. Mothers protect their young from predation by hiding them in a burrow.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Zhang, Y., Z. Zhang, J. Liu. 2003. Burrowing rodents as ecosystem engineers: the ecology and management of plateau zokors Myospalax fontanierii in alpine meadow ecosystems on the Tibetan Plateau. Mammal Review, 33: 284-294.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Chinese mountain cats rely heavily on hearing to track their prey.

Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of Chinese mountain cats has not been recorded, but the closely related jungle cat has an average lifespan of 14 years.

  • Ogurlu, I., E. Gundogdu, I. Yildirim. 2010. Population status of jungle cat (Felis chaus) in Egirdir lake, Turkey. Journal of Environmental Biology, 31: 179-183.
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Reproduction

Little is know about the Chinese mountain cat mating system, but the closely related jungle cat exhibits promiscuity, meaning that both males and females mate with multiple partners. Male and female Chinese mountain cats live in solitary burrows except during the mating season when they have been reported to live together.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Chinese mountain cats breed from January to March, kittens are born in May. There are 2 to 4 kittens per brood. Mothers care for their young in a burrow where they are safe from predators. The kittens become independent after 7 to 8 months.

Breeding interval: Chinese mountain cats breed once yearly.

Breeding season: The breeding season for Chinese mountain cats is January to March.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 4.

Range time to independence: 7 to 8 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

There is no information available regarding parental investment in Felis bieti, but in the closely related jungle cat the majority of parental care is supplied by the mother. The father occasionally stays to protect the territory.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, , Kristin Nowell, Peter Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: Status survey and conservation action plan. Cambridge, UK: IUCN Publication Services Unit.
  • Sanderson, J., Y. Yufeng, D. Naktsang. 2010. Of the only endemic cat species in China. CATnews, Special Issue 5: 18-21.
  • Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The total population of Chinese mountain cats includes fewer than 10,000 individuals and the population trend is decreasing. Two major threats to Chinese mountain cats have been identified, and both involve humans. The first is that these cats are hunted for their fur. The pelts are used to make clothes and traditional hats. Although hunting Chinese mountain cats is illegal, their skins are still found in Chinese shops. The second major threat to Felis bieti is China's poisoning campaign against pikas and various rodent pests. Pikas are considered pests because they eat the grass that livestock would otherwise eat. Livestock farmers have used zinc phosphide and other similar chemicals to kill the pikas. A poisoning campaign was enacted from 1958 to 1978 after which it was discontinued because it became evident that the poison was killing predators of the pikas as well. Unfortunately, small scale poisoning still occurs throughout most of the Chinese mountain cat's range. These cats are protected under Category 1 of the Chinese Wildlife Law and Appendix 2 of CITES.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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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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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

Chinese mountain cats have no known negative economic impacts on humans.

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Chinese mountain cats help farmers in China to control pest populations. Pika species (Ochotona), which are favored prey of Chinese mountain cats, are seen as pests by some Chinese farmers because they consume grasses that livestock may also eat.

It is illegal to hunt Chinese mountain cats, but their pelts are often found in Chinese markets.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population

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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 Sanderson, J., Mallon, D. P., Driscoll, C. (2010). "Felis silvestris ssp. bieti". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. 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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