North American Wild Cats
In addition to the larger North American panther and mountain lion, four species of wild cats in two separate genera inhabit areas of North America.
Seven species of New World Cats (Leopardus), for example, prowl the fields and forests of South, Central and North America.
Leopardus evolution history favored South American, Central American and Mexican species, with two species the ocelot and margay, currently living along North America's southern border.
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Types of Animals
The Margay (Leopardus wiedii), a medium sized, spotted cat, is found from Mexico south to South America.
Margays are not listed as endangered by the IUCN, although they are listed as endangered by the United States.
They prefer a forest habitat, and most accounts of the species mention their ability to climb down trees head first.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), a medium sized, new world cat, makes its home in grasslands, scrublands and forests, including tropical forests of South America, Central America and Mexico.
A small breeding population of ocelots also lives along the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where the construction of a border fence brings concerns that it could stifle Ocelot populations by restricting its territory.
The spotted coat made it a favorite target for the pet and fur trade. Population declines necessitated an Appendix I CITES listing. They are also listed as an endangered species.
Like most small cats, they are nocturnal, hunting at night for local rodents, birds and reptiles. They feel equally at home in trees and under brush.
Two of the world's four lynx species also make their homes in North America.
The Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the bobcat (lynx rufus) are the two native species. The Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) and Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) are native to forest areas of Europe and Siberia, with the latter relegated to a small area of Spain and listed as critically endangered.
Bobcats average about three feet long from nose to tip of tail, with males generally larger in size and weight.
They are not considered endangered, and they are hunted for their fur.
The Canada Lynx is a northern wild cat, characterized by big, wide paws. They act as snowshoes, enabling the lynx to run in the snow after its favored prey, the snowshoe hare.
In the United States, the Canada lynx was listed as threatened in 2000. In December 2001, the political fur began to fly, after word leaked that several wildlife biologists in Washington state involved in a government interagency research project attempting to survey the population of Canadian lynx in the Pacific Northwest, admitted to submitting falsified samples of hair for DNA testing.
The Canadian lynx is a very elusive animal, currently listed as threatened in sixteen states under the Endangered Species Act. When the activity was first publicized by the Washington Times in December 2001, the researchers were publicly charged with fraud and attempting to sabotage commercial logging in National Forests under the pretense of a need to protect an endangered species.
Upon discovery of the matter, the charges of fraud and malfeasance continued. Investigations by the General Accounting Office and the Departments of Agriculture and Interior ensued. On March 3, 2002 The GAO released a report Canada Lynx Survey: Unauthorized Hair Samples Submitted for Analysis.
In testimony before the Committee on Resources, U.S. House of Representatives, Ronald Malfi, Acting Managing Director, Office of Special Investigations stated the following regarding the report:
"In summary, there were four instances in which unauthorized hair samples not obtained from the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests, were submitted for DNA testing as part of the National Survey for those forests. These included one submission of bobcat hair in 1999, and three submissions of lynx hair in September and October 2000.
The Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife employed the biologists who made those submissions. These biologists maintain that they submitted these samples to test the accuracy of the work performed by the laboratory, although they knew that the Protocol for the National Survey did not provide for such action."
Of course, there are two sides to every story and the latest issue of Forest Magazine (Spring 2002), a publication of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, reports that the researchers in question had informed their supervisors of their activities and defended them as being blind controls or scientific controls to assess the reliability of the testing lab.
Forest Magazine also reported that the British science journal, Nature defended the blind controls as a reasonable scientific practice.
© 2002-2012. Patricia A. Michaels. All rights reserved.