Pseudalopex culpaeus 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Canidae

Scientific Name: Pseudalopex culpaeus
Species Authority: (Molina, 1782)
Common Name(s):
English Culpeo, Andean Fox
Spanish Lobo Andino, Culpeo, Zorro Andino, Zorro Colorado, Zorro Culpeo
French Culpeau
Lycalopex culpaeus (Molina, 1782)
Taxonomic Notes: Included in the genus Lycalopex by Wozencraft (2005), but here retained in Pseudalopex.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Jiménez, J.E., Lucherini, M. & Novaro, A.J.
Reviewer(s): Sillero-Zubiri, C. & Hoffmann, M. (Canid Red List Authority)
The Culpeo is distributed from the Andes and hilly regions of South America, ranging down to the Pacific shoreline in the desert of northern Chile. Culpeos appear to withstand intense hunting levels and still maintain viable regional populations. When hunting pressure is reduced, populations usually can recover quickly. The species is not considered threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2004 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Culpeo is distributed along the Andes and hilly regions of South America from Nariño Province of Colombia in the north (Jiménez et al. 1995) to Tierra del Fuego in the south (Markham 1971; Redford and Eisenberg 1992). It ranges down to the Pacific shoreline in the desert of northern Chile (Mann 1945, J.E. Jiménez, pers. obs.), south to about Valdivia (Osgood 1943) and then again in Magallanes. On the eastern slopes of the Andes, the culpeo is found in Argentina from Jujuy Province in the North, reaching the Atlantic shoreline from Río Negro and southwards. This extended eastward distribution is relatively recent and was apparently favoured by sheep ranching (Crespo and De Carlo 1963; Novaro 1997a).
Countries occurrence:
Argentina; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Chile; Ecuador; Peru
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Due to conflicts with humans (i.e., preying upon poultry and livestock, Crespo and De Carlo 1963; Bellati and von Thüngen 1990) and because of its value as a furbearer, the Culpeo has been persecuted throughout its range for many decades (Jiménez 1993; Novaro 1995). Thus, current population numbers may be the result of past and present hunting pressure and food availability. The introduction of exotic prey species such as European hares (Lepus europaeus) and rabbits, as well as small-sized livestock into Chile and Argentina ca. 100 years ago, probably led to increases in the distribution and abundance of Culpeos, and facilitated their expansion towards the lowlands in eastern Argentina (Crespo and De Carlo 1963; Crespo 1975; Jiménez 1993; Jaksic 1998; Novaro et al. 2000a). Currently, Culpeos range over a much wider area in Patagonia than previously. Likewise, in several areas of the desert of northern Chile, recent mining activities provide the culpeo with resources such as food, water and shelter that were in much shorter supply in the past, and hence have changed their local distribution and abundance (J.E. Jiménez, pers. obs.).

Culpeos appear to withstand intense hunting levels as shown by fur harvest data from Argentina and still maintain viable regional populations (Novaro 1995). Culpeo populations that are harvested intensively may maintain viable levels through immigration from neighbouring unexploited areas that act as refugia (Novaro 1995). The Culpeo population in Neuquén Province in north-west Patagonia for example, appears to function as a source-sink system in areas where cattle and sheep ranches are intermixed (Novaro 1997b). Cattle ranches where no hunting occurs supply disperser foxes that repopulate sheep ranches with intense hunting. Changes in sex ratio may be another mechanism that allows culpeo populations to withstand intense hunting (Novaro 1995). Furthermore, large litter size and early maturity (Crespo and De Carlo 1963) could explain the Culpeo's high resilience to hunting.

When hunting pressure is reduced, Culpeo populations usually can recover quickly (Crespo and De Carlo 1963). This increase was observed at the Chinchilla National Reserve (Jiménez 1993) and at Fray Jorge National Park (Meserve et al. 1987; Salvatori et al. 1999), both in north central Chile. Culpeo densities also have increased in many areas of Argentine Patagonia following the reduction of fur prices and hunting pressure in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Novaro 1997b; A.J. Novaro and M.C. Funes unpubl.). An exception to this response is the Culpeo population in Tierra del Fuego, where they are still declining in spite of several years of reduced hunting pressure (N. Loekemeyer and A. Iriarte pers. comm.).

Estimates from intensive trapping by Crespo and De Carlo (1963) provided a density of 0.7 individuals/km² for north-west Patagonia, Argentina. Thirty years later, Novaroet al. (2000b), using line transects, reported densities of 0.2–1.3 individuals/km² for the same area. In north central Chile, the ecological density of culpeos in ravines is 2.6 individuals/km², whereas the crude density (throughout the study site) is 0.3 individuals/km² (Jiménez 1993). In Torres del Paine, a crude density of 1.3 individuals/km² was reported based on sightings (J. Rau pers. comm.). Interestingly, a later estimate for the same area, based on telemetry, rendered an ecological density of 1.2 individuals/km² (Johnson 1992, in Jiménez 1993).

Based on radio telemetry, sightings and abundance of faeces, Salvatori et al. (1999) concluded that Culpeos respond numerically to a decline in the availability of their prey in north central Chile. Earlier, based on abundance of faeces, Jaksic et al. (1993) reached the same conclusion for the same Culpeo population. In contrast, Culpeos (not distinguished from sympatric Chillas) did not show a numerical or a functional response during a decline of their main prey at another site in north central Chile (Jaksic et al. 1992).
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Throughout its wide distribution, the Culpeo uses many habitat types ranging from rugged and mountain terrain up to the tree line, deep valleys and open deserts, scrubby pampas, sclerophyllous matorral, to broad-leaved temperate southern beech forest in the south. The Culpeo uses all the range of habitat moisture gradients from the driest desert to the broad-leaved rainforest. In the Andes of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, the culpeo reaches elevations of up to 4,800 m (Redford and Eisenberg 1992; Romo 1995; A.J. Novaro et al. unpubl.; J.E. Jiménez, pers. obs.). Redford and Eisenberg (1992) placed the Culpeo in the coldest and driest environments of South America relative to other South American canids.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Main threats to Culpeos have been hunting and trapping for fur (although trade has decreased in the last decade) and persecution to reduce predation on livestock and poultry. Habitat loss does not appear to be an important threat to this species. Predation by feral and domestic dogs may be important in some areas (Novaro 1997b).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES – Appendix II (as Lycalopex culpaeus).

In Chile, the Culpeo occurs in 38 protected areas distributed throughout the country, encompassing all the habitats where it can be found. However, only 14% are large enough to support viable populations. In Argentina, the species occurs in 12 national parks and several provincial reserves, the majority of which probably support viable populations. In Peru, Culpeos occur in 13 protected areas (D. Cossios pers. comm.).

In Chile, hunting has been banned since 1980, although law enforcement is not strict.

The Argentine legislation about Culpeos is contradictory. Culpeos were considered "Endangered" by a 1983 decree of the Argentine Wildlife Board (Dirección de Fauna y Flora Silvestres), due to the numbers of culpeo pelts traded during the 1970s and early 1980s. However, trade at the national level and export of Culpeo pelts was legal during that entire period and currently remains legal. The Culpeo's endangered status has never been revised in spite of marked changes in the fur trade and reports from monitoring programmes. The Tierra del Fuego population has been legally protected since 1985 (N. Loekemeyer pers. comm.).

In Peru, the Culpeo is not considered endangered and hunting may be legal if a management plan is approved by the government (D. Cossios pers. comm.). In Bolivia, although the fur export was banned in 1986, the species is not protected (Tarifa 1996, L. Pacheco pers. comm.).

The Argentine Wildlife Board is starting to develop a management plan for canids that will include the Culpeo (V. Lichschein and M. Eliseth pers. comm.). Five regional workshops that included wildlife agency officials from provincial governments, wildlife traders, conservationists, and scientists have been held in Argentine Patagonia during recent years (the last one in 2002) to coordinate efforts to manage culpeo populations in a sustainable manner and reduce sheep predation. Similarly, in Chile, two national carnivore workshops have been organized by the Livestock and Agricultural Bureau during recent years. These were aimed at presenting new findings on the natural history of canids, including Culpeos, and wildlife-livestock issues and to discuss ways of improving our knowledge and better protecting Chilean carnivore populations.

The Culpeo is common in zoos throughout Chile and Argentina.

Citation: Jiménez, J.E., Lucherini, M. & Novaro, A.J. 2008. Pseudalopex culpaeus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T6929A12816382. . Downloaded on 27 June 2016.
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