Distribution patterns of wild felids (Carnivora: Felidae) in the dry tropics of Central-Western Mexico
The Michoacán state is characterized by the existence of important environmental heterogeneity in terms of climate, topography and types of vegetation, which includes the worldwide endangered tropical dry forest. Some reports indicating the presence of the six species of felids occurring in Mexico in this region have been made; however, evidence to support these reports is scant, and filling this lack of information is particularly critical in the case of threatened species or habitats. The aim of this study was to systematize and analyze data distribution patterns of felids in the state of Michoacán, in the Central-Western Mexico. We conducted a review of literature and databases to compile species presence records in the study region. Moreover, we analyzed data obtained from ten years of field work conducted in the region, in which complementary methods (detection of direct and indirect evidence of species occurrence along transects, camera-trapping and interviews to local people) were applied to detect the presence of felid species. We compiled a total of 29 presence records of felids in the region from our review. Additionally, field work, which accumulated 1 107.5 km of walked transects, and 8 699 camera-trap days, produced 672 records of species presence. Lynx rufus was the species with the lowest number of records and the most restricted distribution. In contrast, the species with the greatest number of records was Leopardus pardalis (n = 343). In general, 89% of felids records occurred below 1 000 masl. Overall mean annual temperature of presence records was 24 °C and mean annual precipitation was 1 040 mm. The species whose presence records showed the most distinctive pattern, in terms of temperature and precipitation associated, was L. rufus (15.8 ± 1.3°C and 941 ± 171 mm). Results of a cluster analysis showed that areas supporting different combinations of eco-regions and types of vegetation could be grouped in five clusters having different assemblages of felid species and camera-trapping records. This study results useful to garner a more comprehensive view of the distribution patterns of felids in a region with important environmental contrasts and subjected to an increased human pressure. Moreover, this study provides insights that further our understanding of the relationship between environmental variables and felid distribution patterns which may have an impact for conservation and management strategies at the local and regional levels.