Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Cats!

One of the objectives in the Wildcat project is to gain information about some very elusive creatures. Our main targets are 5 cat species! Just for fun, here is an introduction to each cat (in size order), and an excuse to post photos of each! (All of the following photos are taken with our infrared camera traps)

Panthera onca is the third largest feline in the world! They are solitary animals, and have large home ranges. They often travel during the day, and hunt at night. Each cat can be identified by it's spots (rosettes), like a fingerprint. Being a large, biologically and anthropologically significant animal, much research has been done with Jaguars. The population in Belize is currently healthy, but all over the world the survival of the jaguar is being threatened by habitat fragmentation.

Puma concolor is a cat of many names! Here in Belize we simply call it a Puma, while in the states it's called a cougar, lion, mountain lion, or panther. They are solitary animals, and feed on medium to large prey. They have adapted to many habitat types and therefore have the largest distribution throughout North, Central, and South America. Go Cougs!

Leopardus pardalis is a much smaller cat, comparable to a golden shepherd. Like the Jaguar, this cat is also spotted, with some differences (the spots tend to turn into somewhat striped pattern on the neck). Like the larger two cats, the Ocelot spends it's time on the ground, not in the trees.

Puma yaguarondi is a cat of mystery. Not much is known about this felid. It is smaller than the fore-mentioned Ocelot, but still larger than an average house cat. Solid in color, they have two phases, a red and brown.

Leopardus wiedii is the smallest wild felid in Belize. The Margay are nocturnal and live in the trees. This makes them very difficult to find, and as such, little is known about them. They are also spotted, have extra long tails for balance, and extra large eyes for nightvision.

Belize is an ideal location for working in the natural world. The diversity here is astounding, whether it be plants, mammals, or birds . I find it very interesting that the Jaguar and Puma coexist on the landscape, since they rely on a similar prey base. Also interesting is the fact that so little is known about two separate cat species.

Now, I would like to take a moment to introduce one of my favorite furry friends, with a series of photos obtained at one of our camera trapping sites!

El Jefe (The Boss)
Even the big kitties need a catnap!

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