Vicuña: The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) or vicugna is one of two wild South American camelids, along with the guanaco, which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama, and is now believed to be the wild ancestor of domesticated alpacas, which are raised for their fiber. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña’s fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca raised vicuñas for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments.
Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuñas have been protected by law. Before being declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña population has recovered to about 125,000, and while conservation organizations have reduced its level of threat, they still call for active conservation programs to protect population levels from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.
There are two genera and four species of viscacha.
* Plains viscacha (Lagostomus maximus): Resident of the Pampas of Argentina, easily differentiated from other viscachas by black and gray mustache-like facial markings. This species lives colonially in warrens of ten to over one hundred. It is very vocal and emits alarm calls. The plains viscacha can strip grassland used to graze livestock; this caused ranchers to consider the rodent a pest species.
* Northern viscacha (Lagidium peruanum): Native to the Peruvian Andes at those elevations between the tree line and the snow line. It is dorsally gray or brown in color, with a bushy tail and long, furry ears. This species lives in large colonies separated into individual family units, like an apartment complex. It eats a wide range of plant matter, settling for almost anything it can find growing in the harsh, rocky environment. An individual which has tentatively been assigned to L. peruanum has been discovered in Ecuador, and may represent a distinct species (Werner et al., 2006).
* Mountain viscacha (Lagidium viscacia): Also called southern viscacha, this species is similar to the northern viscacha, but its pelage is more red in color. It lives in similar habitat in the Andes.
* Wolffsohn’s viscacha (Lagidium wolffsohni): Little is known about this species, as it is rarer than the other three viscachas.
The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in superficial appearance.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru, northern Bolivia, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,483 ft) to 5,000 m (16,404 ft) meters above sea-level, throughout the year. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, alpacas were not bred to be beasts of burden but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, much as wool is. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States. Alpacas and llamas differ in that alpacas have straight ears and llamas have banana-shaped ears. Aside from these differences, llamas are on average 1-2 feet taller and proportionally bigger than alpacas.
In the textile industry, “alpaca” primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair but now often made from similar fibers, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality English wool.In trade, distinctions are made between alpacas and the several styles of mohair and luster.
(Puma concolor), also known as puma, mountain lion, catamount, or panther, depending on the region, is a mammal of the Felidae family, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere,extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major American habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the American continents after the jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, along with the leopard, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.
A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses, and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it also hunts species as small as insects and rodents. Moreover, it prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with other predators such as the jaguar, gray wolf, American Black Bear, and the grizzly bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.
Due to persecution following the European colonization of the Americas, and continuing human development of cougar habitat, populations have dropped in most parts of its historical range. In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America, except an isolated sub-population in Florida; the animal may be recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory. With its vast range, the cougar has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous Americans and in contemporary culture. The Cougar has recently made a comeback in the state of Wyoming, where it presently has the largest population in North America.
The pudús (Pudu), considered to be the world’s smallest deer, are native to South America. There are two species of pudú: the Northern pudú (Pudu mephistophiles) from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile, which stands about 12 to 14 inches (32 to 35 cm) at the shoulder; and the Southern or Chilean Pudú (Pudu puda) from southern Chile and southwestern Argentina, which averages between 14 to 16 inches (36 to 41 cm). Males sprout small (7-10cm) antlers which are shed annually.
Both species of pudú subsist on a diet of grass, leaves, and fallen fruit. In the wild, their life expectancy is between eight and ten years. The Southern species is endangered (IUCN status: vulnerable), primarily due to hunting and habitat loss from human agriculture and land development.
The pudú has several interesting characteristics that distinguish it from other deer. It is able to climb fallen trees, and it is sometimes forced to do so, both to escape predators and reach food. Because of its small size, it is often forced to balance on its hind legs to reach foliage. When threatened, it barks in alarm.
Because it lives in the dense forests of South America, it requires an efficient way to travel throughout the undergrowth. Pudú maintain a complex system of paths and trails that allow them to quickly get from one place to another. Such paths often lead to excellent places to rest, mate or find food.
Pudú mate between April and June, and gestation periods range from 200 to 220 days, giving birth to one or occasionally two young.
Its predators are typically eagles, owls, cougars, foxes, and small cats.
Monito del Monte:
The Monito del Monte (“little mountain monkey”, Dromiciops gliroides) is a diminutive marsupial native only to southwestern South America. It is notable for having been thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago until the species was rediscovered in the modern age.
According to studies the Monito del Monte, which is today found in South America, could be potentially a native of Australia. Tiny prehistoric bones have been found on Queensland farm and are being directly linked to the Monito del Monte. One of Australia’s earliest known marsupials was the Djarthia, which is a primitive mouse-like animal that lived about 55 million years ago. The Djarthia is now being labeled by scientists as a primitive relative of the small marsupial known as the Monito del Monte. This research suggests that the Monito del Monte is certainly a living fossil, the last of a lineage that can be traced back to Djarthia.
The Monito del Monte normally reproduces in the spring and can have a litter size varying anywhere between 1-4 young. The females have a pseudovagina, and a fur lined pouch containing 4 mammae. When the young are stable enough to leave the pouch they are nursed in a nest, and then carried on the mothers back. When the young are weaned, they still remain in association with the mother. Males and females both reach sexual maturity after 2 years.
The Monito del Monte mainly live in trees, where they construct spherical nests of water resistant bamboo leaves. These leaves are then lined with moss or grass, and placed in well protected areas of the tree. The nests are sometimes covered in grey moss as well to additionally conceal the animal. While these nests protect the Monito del Monte from the cold, they are also used as a place to hibernate when the weather becomes cold.
A study performed in the temperate forests of Southern Argentina showed a mutualistic seed dispersal relationship between D. gliroides and Tristerix corymbosus, also known as the Loranthacous mistletoe. The Monito del Monte is the single dispersal agent for this plant, and without it the plant would go extinct. The Monito del Monte eats this seeds of T. corymbosus, and then excretes them to disperse the seeds. Scientists speculate that the co evolution of these two species could have occurred 60-70 million years ago.
The South American Gray Fox (Lycalopex griseus), also known as the Patagonian Fox, the Chilla, or the Grey Zorro, is a species of zorro, the “false” foxes.
The South American Gray Fox is found in the Southern Cone of South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile. Its range comprises a stripe, both sides of the Andes Mountain Range between parallels 17ºS (northernmost Chile) and 54ºS (Tierra del Fuego).
In Argentina, this species inhabits the western semiarid region of the country, from the Andean spurs (ca. 69ºW) to meridian 66ºW. South from the Río Grande river, the distribution of the fox widens reaching the Atlantic coast. In Chile, it is present throughout the country. Its presence in Peru has been mentioned; to date, however, there has been no confirmation of it. The South American Gray Fox was introduced to the Falkland Islands in the late 1920s early 1930s and is still present in quite large numbers on Beaver and Weddell Islands plus several smaller islands.
The South American Gray Fox occurs in a variety of habitats, from the warm, arid scrublands of the Argentine Monte and the cold, arid Patagonian steppe to the forest of southernmost Chile.
The South American Gray Fox is a small South American canid, weighing 2.5-4 kg (5-9 pounds), and measuring 43-70 cm (17-27 inches) in length.
Its diet consists mainly of rodents, birds, and rabbits.
It breeds in late austral fall, around March. After a gestation period of 2 months, 2-4 kits are born in a den. Not much else is recorded about its lifestyle.
The Culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus), sometimes known as the Patagonian Fox or (Common) Andean Fox, is a South American species of wild dog. It is the second largest native canid on the continent after the Maned Wolf. In its appearance it bears many similarities to the widely recognized red fox. It has grey and reddish fur, a white chin, reddish legs, and a stripe on its back that may be barely visible.
Its distribution extends from Ecuador and Peru to the southern regions of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. It is most common on the western slopes of the Andes, where it inhabits open country and deciduous forests. Populations of the Culpeo are also found in some of the westernmost of the Falkland Islands, where they were introduced by humans. The extinct Falkland Islands Wolf was probably a close relative.
The Culpeo’s diet consists largely of rodents, rabbits, birds and lizards, and to a lesser extent, plant material and carrion. The Culpeo does attack sheep on occasion, and is therefore often hunted or poisoned. In some regions it has become rare, but overall the species is not threatened with extinction.
(The Mascot of our Network is a Culpeo Fox)
Zorro Chilote o de Darwin:
Darwin’s Fox or Darwin’s Zorro (Lycalopex fulvipes) is a small Critically endangered canine from the genus Lycalopex. It is also known as the Zorro Chilote or Zorro de Darwin in Spanish and lives on Chiloé Island and Nahuelbuta National Park in mainland Chile (IX Region Araucania).
Darwin’s Fox was first collected from San Pedro Island off the coast of Chile by the naturalist Charles Darwin in 1834. It was long held that Darwin’s Fox was a subspecies of the South American Gray Fox (L. griseus); however, the discovery of a small population of Darwin’s Fox on the mainland in Nahuelbuta National Park in 1990 and subsequent genetic analysis has clarified the fox’s status as a unique species.
The South Andean Deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus) or Huemul, is an endangered species of deer native to the mountains of Argentina and Chile. One of two mid-sized deer of the Hippocamelus genus, the South Andean Deer ranges across the high mountainsides and cold valleys of the Andes. The distribution and habitat, behaviour, and diet of the deer have all been the subject of study. The viability of the small remaining population is an outstanding concern to researchers.
The South Andean Deer is well-adapted to broken, difficult terrain with a stocky build and short legs. A brown to greyish-brown coat tapers to white undersides and a white marked throat; the long, curled hairs of the coat provide protection against cold and moisture. Does are 70 to 80 kg. (154-176 lbs.) and stand 80 cm. (31 in.), while bucks are 90 kg (198 lbs.) and 90 cm (35 in). (Other weight suggestions are lower.) There is no sexual size difference amongst fawns, which are born unspotted.
Sexual dimorphism is notable. Only the bucks have antlers, which are shed each year toward the end of winter. Males also have a distinctive black “face mask”, which curves into an elongated heart-shape surrounding a forehead of the principal brown colour.Unusually for a dimorphic ungulate, research has shown South Andean Deer will congregate in mixed-sex groups, and the length of time spent inter-mixing increases with group size. The farther the animals are from rocky slopes the larger the size of observed groups, suggesting predation rates are lowest on slopes and greatest in open areas such as valley bottoms.
The animal ranges across a variety of often difficult habitat. Open periglacial scrubland, low bluffs and other rocky areas, and upland forests and forest-border are principal range types.One study of coastal fjord populations found males and juveniles preferred periglacial grassland; females were mainly found on bluffs, and fawns exclusively so. Gunnera plants were a principal dietary item.
While previously found over much of southwestern South America, the current status of the South Andean Deer is critical. Numbers in Argentina were estimated at 350-600, in fragmented groups, as of 2005.Argentinian national authorities have been criticized for calling the species’ situation satisfactory, where research shows declining numbers; further research on habitat viability and conservation centers have been urged.
Pressures on Huemul populations include economic activities and invasive species. One study in Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park found thirty-two plant items in its diet. The most common of these, the Lenga Beech (Nothofagus pumilio), was also a primary food item of the Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), causing displacement to marginal areas and increased vulnerability for the smaller South Andean Deer.
Both decreased reproduction rates and increased morbidity may be affecting the population in Argentina; predation by the Cougar, the South Andean Deer’s only natural predator, remains a principal cause of mortality in Argentina.
The Huemul is used in Chilean Emblem:
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