Kodkod, the cute feline that humans are decimating



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Kodkod, the cute feline that humans are decimating

The kodkod is the smallest feline of the Americas, as well as the one with the most limited distribution, being widespread mainly in the central and southern regions of Chile and only marginally in the adjacent areas of Argentina.

Currently, the IUCN inserts the kodkod among the vulnerable species, given that the number of adult specimens, already less than 10,000 units, is still decreasing due to deforestation and decrease of preys. Furthermore, no population is composed of more than 1000 specimens of breeding age.

The main threat factors for the kodkod are the clearing of the temperate moist forests in which it lives and the advance of pine plantations and agricultural lands, particularly in the central regions of Chile. Between 1997 and 1998, in Chiloé, two of the five radio-collared kodkods on the island were shot after raiding a chicken coop.

The occurrence of the kodkod is closely associated with the mixed temperate rainforests of the southern Andes and coastal ranges, especially the Valdivian and Araucaria forests of Chile, characterized by the presence of bamboo in the understory.

Kodkod, the cute feline that humans are decimating

It prefers temperate evergreen rainforests to moist temperate deciduous forests, sclerophyllous scrublands and coniferous forests. It also tolerates habitats altered by man, as it is found in both secondary and primary forests and scrublands, and on the edges of urban and cultivated areas.

It is encountered from sea level to tree line, about 1900 m elevation. In Argentina, its presence has been recorded in humid mountain forests, with characteristics similar to the Valdivian ones, including the multi-layered structure with bamboo and numerous lianas and epiphytes.

In July 2022, a black kodkod, a very rare Patagonian cat, was caught on camera for the first time. Kodkods are active both day and night, though they venture into open terrain only under cover of darkness. During the day, they rest among the dense vegetation in rocky gorges, along streams with dense vegetation cover and in dry gorse bushes.

They are excellent climbers and can easily climb trees more than a meter in diameter. They hunt for birds, lizards and rodents in the gorges and wooded areas, feeding on South American lapwings, southern thrushes, Chucao tapaculi, huet-huet and geese and domestic chickens.