Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

Abundance changes and activity flexibility of the oncilla, Leopardus tigrinus (Carnivora: Felidae), appear to reflect avoidance of conflict

Gustavo R. Oliveira-Santos, LuizE. Graipel, MaurícioA. Tortato, MarcosA. Zucco, CarlosC. Cáceres, NiltonV. B. Goulart, Fernando

We investigated the density and activity of the oncilla, Leopardus tigrinus (Schreber, 1775), a threatened small cat, in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, using camera-trap data. We described differences in the activity of individuals occurring alone or in sympatry with larger cats. Oncilla presented low densities (7-13 ind./100 km²) and high flexibility in its activity. The oncillas were primarily nocturnal in the absence of other larger cat species - margay, ocelot and puma - but became more diurnal, with a cathemeral activity pattern, when the other cats were present. Oncilla is likely to be in a subordinate position in interactions with larger cats and changes its activity to decrease the chances for interspecific encounters. In this study, however, the presence of other cat species covaries with habitat changes (from coastal forest patches to dense evergreen forests). We also verified the highest oncilla relative abundance in an area with no sympatric larger cats, with abundance decreasing when it was in sympatry with margay, ocelot and puma. Our results, together with recent records of oncilla in other degraded landscapes of the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, provide evidence that oncillas may thrive even in harsh environments where other cats have already been extinct. This raise interesting conservation insights, as in the absence of other cats, L. tigrinus may assume a top predator role of these impoverished vertebrate communities.

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