Andean Mountain Cat Facts
- The Andean Mountain Cat, Leopardus jacobita, is a small species of wildcat. This beautiful animal is also one of only two species of wild felines for which no subspecies have been classically described.
- The beautiful small cat is, unfortunately, an extremely rare creature. Estimates place the number of living individuals to be no more than 2,500.
- The Leopardus jacobita is one of approximately two dozen small wildcat species found around the world and ranks among the least known of all wild felines.
- Sadly, the IUCN currently lists this remarkable feline as Endangered. The greatest threats to its existence consist of habitat loss and climate change.
Andean Mountain Cat Physical Description
Generally, the top coat of an Andean Mountain Cat is silvery-grey in color. Commonly the underside is white, with numerous dark spots and stripes.
It also possesses black rings around the tail and limbs. Body length may reach as much as 25 in (64 cm) and tail may reach 19 in. (48 cm).
The Leopardus jacobita averages about 14 in (36 cm) at the shoulder and weighs about 12 lb. (5.5 kg).
The tail is long, thick and blunt without tapering. The front paws have dark narrow stripes that do not form complete rings. The nose is black or very dark in coloration.
There is a difference between the color patterns in juvenile and mature Andean Mountain Cats. The markings on the coat are smaller, more numerous, and darker on juveniles, especially those on the sides of the body.
Species: L. jacobita
Andean Mountain Cat Habitat and Distribution
Scientists believe that the Andean Mountain Cat lives only in Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and Argentina, in South America. The felines prefer high-elevation treeless habitat, where the conditions are very dry, windy, and cold.
Those areas are also fragmented by deep valleys. Additionally, its distribution is likely to be further localized by the patchy nature of colonies of the preferred prey.
The Andean Mountain Cat lives at altitudes of between 11,500-15,700 ft. (3,500-4,800 m) in elevation. Though it is about the size of a domestic cat, it appears larger because of its long tail and thick fur.
Its diet consists primarily of the mountain viscacha which is a type of rodent.
Unfortunately, estimates place the wildcat’s numbers in a rapid decline. This is primarily due to a loss of habitat (mining, cattle lands, etc.) as well as a decline in the numbers of its prey.
The feline would also hunt mountain chinchillas which are also in rapid decline due to hunting for the fur trade. Also, people in Chile and Bolivia often kill them because of local superstitions.
Since the creature lives only in the high rocky mountains, human-inhabited valleys act as barriers. This fragments the population even further, meaning that even low levels of poaching could be devastating.