Long-tailed chinchilla facts: As its English name indicates, the longtailed chinchilla has an unusually long and bushy tail, averaging 5.6 inches (141 millimeters). The animals weigh about one pound (0.5 kilogram) and measure about 14.4 inches (365 millimeters) from nose to rump. Females can be much larger than males. This chinchilla has gray and black fur on its back and sides, with lighter fur on its belly. Every hair on its body has a black tip.
Geographic range: Also known as the Chilean chinchilla, it lives only in the mountainous regions of northern Chile.
Long-tailed chinchilla habitat: This species lives in semiarid, rocky, and sparsely vegetated areas between 9,840 and 16,400 feet (3,000 to 5,000 feet).
What does long-tailed chinchilla eat: The long-tailed chinchilla eats mainly grass and seeds of any available plants, but sometime eats insects and bird eggs as well.
Behavior and reproduction: Biologists report that female longtailed chinchillas are generally monogamous, meaning that they have only one mate. They carry their young for an average of 111 days, usually delivering two pups. Most will have two litters a year. Mating seasons are from May to November in the Southern Hemisphere and from November to May in the Northern Hemisphere.
This species is active mostly at dusk and at night. Females are the dominant species in the colonies, which can reach up to 300 individuals, and show high levels of aggression with much vocalization. Long-tailed chinchillas are famous for their feats of agility as they leap about their rocky homes. Captive-bred chinchillas are very shy and bond easily with their owners.
Long-tailed chinchillas and people: Even among mammals prized by humans for their pelts, the long-tailed chinchilla is especially sought after. Coats made of their fur have sold for more than $100,000. Many of the animals are cross-bred with other species in captivity for this purpose.
Conservation status: The IUCN has listed this species as Vulnerable. With the last sighting of the animal in 1953, it is virtually unknown in the wild. Before laws had been put in place to protect the species, seven million pelts (individual furs) had been exported to buyers in other countries. They are also threatened by habitat destructionspecifically the burning and harvesting of the algarobilla shrub.