For this month’s species profile, we chose to feature the Geoffrey’s Cat, as the wildlife recovery program just spied, for the first time ever, this shy feline within the bounds of the future Patagonia National Park. Using camera traps, the team gathered new images of this beautiful and rare cat, very seldom seen by humans.
The camera is remotely activated and equipped with a motion or infrared sensor that takes images of wild animals such as the gato montes, without requiring a human presence. The method has been used in ecological research for decades, and is especially helpful for studying and documenting rare and elusive animals.
Because they’re small (they measure between 75 and 85 cm, about the size of a fox), it’s easy to confuse a gato montes with a house cat. Up close, however, they’re much more robust and have a larger head. Members of the leopard family, it’s no surprise that they’re distinguished by their black spots and brown/golden fur. The tail is notable for the black rings that run from bottom to tip.
In the park, the gato montes are more commonly found in lenga forests and thickets of ñirre. They are not exclusive to our region; other countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Brazil have populations of the felines. In terms of diet, they’re not too picky and happily dine on insects, rodents, fish, birds and small mammals.
When pregnant, a female will look for a refuge (between rocks, inside a hollowed tree) to protect her cubs as they grow. Mothers usually give birth to a litter of 5 or 6 and after lactation they hunt and feed their young small rodents. The cubs grow fast, and by six weeks they’re more or less independent.
Despite the gato montes’ wild look, the felines are quite cowardly when it comes to danger. If they’re hurt or threatened in any way they take no shame in fleeing, even at the risk of losing their young. In other words, there’s no danger of attack. And while you’re not likely to spot a gato montes here at the future park, in a place like Patagonia, anything’s possible.