Rare leopard cat dies after being struck by car in western Taiwan

First death of rare leopard cat in 2019 recorded on highway in western Taiwan's Miaoli County

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Leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)

Leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The first death of a rare leopard cat (石虎) in 2019 was reported early this morning after it was struck by a car in western Taiwan.

At 2 a.m. this morning, photos of a deceased leopard cat were posted on the Facebook group @barrier33 (貓徑地圖王小明). The author of the post wrote that the endangered animal's carcass had been discovered at 12 a.m. on Provincial Highway 29 in Miaoli County.

The author of the post described the stretch of road as the "leopard cat killer road," because the latest death marks the fourth time the rare creature has been killed by cars in the area. The Facebook user then blamed human encroachment on the felines' habitat for the slew of deaths:

"Because humans invade their habitat. Build parks, build big roads, and develop hillsides. That is why the leopard cat killings happen repeatedly on the same road. Even one tiny piece [of habitat] should not be removed. Only by maintaining the integrity of the habitat can the tragedy be avoided."


Deceased leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)

The Miaoli Agriculture Department said that it sent personnel to investigate the incident and said that it's initial assessment is that the deceased animal is indeed a leopard cat. The animal, which was estimated to be about one year old, was found to have been bleeding from a chest wound, likely caused by the impact of a car, reported Liberty Times.

Because the eastern side of the highway faces the habitat of leopard cats, ferrets, and pangolins, the animals often cross the road to drink water and forage. The department said it will examine the animal to determine the exact cause of death.

The department said that it is in the process of modifying a culvert to allow the cats to safely cross the road from below. Work on the culvert is slated to be completed before the Lunar New Year holiday, when the road should hopefully become safer for the endangered species, according to the report.


Deceased leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)

The animal is threatened with extinction, with fewer than 1,000 estimated to be living on the island, most often in isolated mountain areas from Nantou County in Central Taiwan to Miaoli County in the north. In some cases, the presence of leopard cats has only been recorded because they were fatally hit by a car.

During the Japanese colonial period, from 1895 to 1945, the animal lived all over the island, but during the past decade, the leopard cat’s natural habitat has rapidly shrunk due to human activity and land development. In recent years, only the area from Miaoli to Nantou, and including Greater Taichung and Changhua County, has been known as providing a habitat to the shy creatures.

The leopard cat or Prionailurus bengalensis chinensis weighs between 3 and 6 kilograms, and feeds mostly on mice and rats.


Deceased leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)


Deceased leopard cat. (Photo from Facebook group 貓徑地圖王小明)