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Jaguarundi - Herpailurus yagouarundi

By: C.M.Shorter

The Jaguarundi is one of the most unusual looking of our small cats with a short, solid coat not unlike that of an Otter. Coat colors range from black, brownish grey and even red with absolutely no markings. That's right - no spots & no stripes for this lowland hunter. No markings on the back of their ear either which are the "False Eyes" nature provides as a defense, like those of the mighty Tigers to confuse potential predators. Eyes are close-set and a very piercing amber in color.
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This small Wild Cat makes its home in the lowlands of Northern Mexico, Central and South America. Mainly diurnal and crepuscular ground hunters they have been well observed in daylight hours and have rather large home ranges - much larger than that of their neighboring felines, including the Jaguar. Another difference between the Jaguarundi and most other Wild Cats is they travel and hunt in pairs. Studies reveal they prefer to occupy varying parts of their range rather than making territorial boundary patrols using scent markings to define borders as Dave and Jason describe to us in the TigerHomes DVD "Power Cats - Locked & Loaded".
In spite of their unique appearance, Jaguarundi are closely related to other small South American cats. Modern day scientists believe their ancestors evolved in Eurasia and crossed into the New World via the Bering land bridge about the same time as the ancestor of the modern day Cougar.

Not usually found above 2,000 meters, they prefer territory of dense vegetation in low lying dry scrub, swamp and savannah woodland over that of the primary forests. Their small, sleek frame is best suited for this type of lowland terrain. These ground hunters prefer a low-carb diet (just kidding!). Actually, the Jaguarundi seeks out a wide variety of prey including small rodents, rabbits, armadillo, opossums, wild turkey, quail, reptiles, frogs & fish. Vegetation, leaves and fallen fruit are sometimes consumed for water content. Jaguarundi body shape is suited for a terrestrial dweller but they take refuge in the treetop canopy, often moving from branch to branch.

Easily trapped and tamed, the Central American natives have kept the Jaguarundi as pets and used them for rodent control. Relatively common throughout some areas, but becoming increasingly rare throughout Mexico primarily due to habitat destruction they are offered protected status. Exceptions are the countries of Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guyana where the Jaguarandi is subject to hunting pressure, particularly around settled areas. Actual numbers in the wild are not known but a feral population is known to exist in Florida where they were introduced in the late 1940s. Jaguarundi were never hunted for their fur because of its lack of markings, however dwindling population has placed this species overall on CITES Appendix II, with the exception of the Jaguarundi of Central America, now placed on CITES Appendix I.

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Scientific Name: Herpailurus yagouarundi
Common Name(s): Jaguarundi, Otter Cat
Range: Northern Mexico, Central and South America
Average Weight: 3 - 9kg (6 - 20 lbs)
Length: 77 - 140cm (35 - 55")
Diet: Carnivorous. Small rodents, rabbits, armadillos, opossums, quail, wild turkey, reptiles, frogs, fish and domestic poultry.
Gestation Period: 75- 75 Days
Cub Maturity: 4 - 5 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 4 Kittens
Lifespan: 14 - 16 years. Documented at 22 years in captivity.
Predators: Man, Larger Carnivores. Threats - pollution and loss of habitat.
Social Structure: Known to hunt and travel in pairs.
Territory Size: Relatively large territories with Males taking 80-100 km (45-56 miles) and Females occupying 15-20km (8-11 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix II overall, with the North and Central American populations on Appendix I.

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