Jaguarundi

Herpailurus yagouaroundi

Quick Bio for Jaguarundis:

Status: Least Concern
have from 1-4 cubs, usually 2
Weight: 4-9 kg
Diet: Carnivore

Physical description of Jaguarundis

The appearance of the jaguarundi is striking when compared to other cats. Its head shape isn’t distinctly cat-like, but when compared to its closest lineage, the puma and cheetahs, it appears a bit more reasonable. Its head is shaped somewhat like the flat-headed cat’s as well. It has shorter legs and a longer body, making it look more like a giant weasel or something similar.

They are not big animals, being a bit more than half a meter long and 30 – 40 cm at the shoulder. Unsurprisingly for the cat family, males are slightly larger.

The fur is generally reddish but can also be darker and greyer. The belly and underneath is a bit paler than the rest of the fur.

Distribution and habitat of Jaguarundis

The Jaguarundi ranges from the US down to Argentina. However, the US populations in the very south of Texas are considered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to be nonexistent.

The jaguarundi lives in multiple habitats. Some cat species are specialists, and some, like the jaguarundi, are very adaptable. It can live in tropical rainforest, deciduous forest, bushland, grassland and arid scrubland. Despite thriving in some arid areas, they are also at home in wetlands. Most sightings occur in thinner-treed, human-affected habitats, but this is probably because of the difficulty of spotting animals in primary forest.

Jaguarundi behaviour

It is hard to be sure how the jaguarundi behaves. Their range is in areas of relatively high population. However, they are extremely secretive and tend to avoid human population centers. Pairs are sighted together, but not very often. Modern research suggests it might be more common than previously thought and is not just mating couples.

Pairs appear to be most commonly sighted in Paraguay in the southern part of the range. It might just be an adaption of the southern population. The rest are thought to be solitary, as most other cats are.

The jaguarundi is active during the day, leading to many more opportunities to spot one in the wild than for most cats. Their territory is generally pretty large. Bigger than most similarly sized cats. However, this does depend on the landscape since the habitats jaguarundis live in are very varied.

Like other cats, the jaguarundi’s senses of smell, sight, and hearing are rather acute. It does seem, though, that jaguarundis have a more developed communication system: they appear much more ‘talkative’ than other cats.

Communication is also done with scent markings and urination.

This sleek and agile Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), native to Central and South America, adeptly navigates its environment by using a sturdy branch as a makeshift bridge.
Licensed from Shutterstock
This sleek and agile Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), native to Central and South America, adeptly navigates its environment by using a sturdy branch as a makeshift bridge.

What do Jaguarundis eat?

The diet consists of suitably sized birds and mammals. Reptiles and frogs also make up part of the diet.

Mice, rabbits and other small rodents are on the menu, as are some iguanas and small lizards. Birds are quite commonly eaten, especially ground-dwelling birds.

Mating and Parental care of Jaguarundis

Like a lot of cats that spend time in the jungle, it is hard to confirm how their mating system operates. Pairs have been sighted regularly, but we still don’t know for sure that the cats operate as couples. Territories of individuals do seem to overlap.

Breeding occurs year-round. During the time leading up to mating, the females mark their territory to let males know they are receptive. Litters are just a couple of kittens, maybe up to four at a time, and are born like a lot of smaller cats in a den, such as a tree hollow.

The kittens are out and about after a month and hunting for themselves after 2-3 months. They stay with the mother a while longer as they perfect their hunting skills. When they leave their mother, they are not yet sexually mature. They are independent after a year but not fully mature until 2-3 years old.

Jaguarundis and their ecosystem

As predators, the jaguarundi helps keep the smaller rodents and similarly sized animals in check. However, it is not alone in its niche – nearly all the other American cats of similar size prey on the same animals. The jaguarundi is more active during the daytime and holds a slightly different position in the ecosystem.

Jaguarundi (herpailurus yaguarondi) sitting on a branch. As some other felines they appear in different colorations.
Licensed from Shutterstock
Jaguarundi (herpailurus yaguarondi) sitting on a branch. As some other felines they appear in different colorations.

Impact of Jaguarundis on the human economy

Depending on the region, some jaguarundi are seen as pests as they prey on hens and chickens.

Conservation status and human impact on Jaguarundis

The biggest threat to the jaguarundi is the same as most animals. Habitat loss across their range can devastate local populations. They have sufficient numbers and habitat, so the IUCN lists them as least concern. In certain areas though, like the south of the US, numbers are so low that they are possibly locally extinct.

Other important information about Jaguarundis

There are eight subspecies; the four in the North/Central America area are considered to be threatened as habitat in these areas is sometimes degraded.

Jaguarundi in French, German, Spanish ...

Latin Name
Herpailurus yagouaroundi
French Names
Jaguarondi
German Names
Jaguarundi
Spanish Names
Yaguarundi, Jaguaruni, Gatomoro
Swahili Names
Jaguarundi

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