The Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) is one of the most endangered, yet least known, felids. Although the Andean cat is considered at risk of extinction, rigorous quantitative population studies are lacking. Because physical observations of the Andean cat are difficult to make in the wild, we used a camera-trapping array to photo-capture individuals. The survey was conducted in northwestern Argentina at an elevation of approximately 4,200 m during October–December 2006 and April–June 2007. In each year we deployed 22 pairs of camera traps, which were strategically placed. To estimate detection probability and density we applied models for spatial capture–recapture using a Bayesian framework. Estimated densities were 0.07 and 0.12 individual/km2 for 2006 and 2007, respectively. Mean baseline detection probability was estimated at 0.07. By comparison, densities of the Pampas cat (Leopardus colocolo), another poorly known felid that shares its habitat with the Andean cat, were estimated at 0.74–0.79 individual/km2 in the same study area for 2006 and 2007, and its detection probability was estimated at 0.02. Despite having greater detectability, the Andean cat is rarer in the study region than the Pampas cat. Properly accounting for the detection probability is important in making reliable estimates of density, a key parameter in conservation and management decisions for any species.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1