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Chinese Mountain Cat - Felis bieti

By: C.M.Shorter

Chinese Mountain Cats contrary to its name, does not only inhabit the mountains but is found in open country, alpine meadows and forest, bamboo or brush covered mountainsides residing at elevations reaching over 4,000 metres. This small but rugged felid, endemic to China, has range being found only in the northeastern Tibetan plateau in central Sichuan, China. This cat has adapted to one of the harshest climates in the world, ranging from extremely hot summers to below zero winters with raw, dry winds occurring year round. Reports of them being spotted in flatter desert terrain is probably a result of mistaken identity of the desert wildcats or even domestic cats.

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Their terrain makes study of the species very difficult and as a result we have yet another small felid species about which virtually little is known scientifically. Collectors from the Xining Zoo were successful in obtaining 34 specimens during the years from 1973 -1985 although no Chinese Mountain Cats are known to exist in captivity today.
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The Chinese Mountain Cat, also known as Chinese Desert Cats or Chinese Grey Cats has a stocky build with relatively short legs. Coat basic color is pale grey fawn in winter, turning somewhat darker in summer months and is long and dense with an abundant undercoat. They always appear slightly darker on the back with undersides being whitish or even light grey. Ears have a pale reddish brown area beneath each and are tipped with short tufts of hair. As camouflage, the back of their ears are the same dark color as their backside. Paw pads are covered in hair like our Sand Cat, an adaptation for navigating their rugged terrain. Their tail is fairly long and thick, with several dark rings along its length ending with a black tip.

Current status is unknown in the wild although their pelts have a way of appearing in local markets. These rare cats are fully protected in China, with little incident of hunting though poaching for pelts and body parts is a very real threat to their survival. Rivalry for the Chinese Mountain Cat's exists in with their primary Pika prey which has been the target of large scale poisoning campaigns in attempt to control competition with the local's domestic livestock.

The Chinese Mountain Cat is mainly nocturnal and crepuscular, hunting during the early morning and late evening hours. Reproductive season is January through March with females resting and tending to their young in burrows deep in the southern exposure of the mountains utilizing only one entrance. They rely largely on their large auditory bulla to listen for and locate rodent prey by targeting these underground movements and then digging out the prey. The Chinese Mountain Cat has lost significant territory and are considered one of the five most endangered cats in the world.

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Scientific Name: Felis bieti
Common Name(s): Chinese Mountain Cat, Chinese Desert Cat, Chinese Grey Cat
Range: Eastern Tibetan Plateau in Sichuan
Average Weight: 4 - 5.5kg (9 - 12 lbs)
Length: 97 - 199 cm (38.5 - 47")
Diet: Carnivorous. Primarily Pika and other small rodents, vole, and birds (particularly pheasants).
Gestation Period: Unknown
Cub Maturity: 8 - 12 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 2 - 4 Kittens
Lifespan: 10 - 12 years. None known in captivity.
Predators: Man. Rodenticides - Poisoning from tainted Pika prey.
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 12-15 km (7-8 miles)
Conservation Status: Fully protected in China, placed on CITES Appendix II
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