Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.59.48 PMBy Julie Etra

The jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) is a small jaguar that generally ranges from northern Mexico to southern Argentina. There have been confirmed sightings from as far north as New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, with unconfirmed sightings in southern Florida (one road-killed kitten carcass). And yes, they occur along the Oaxacan coast where they are also rare; our neighbors spotted one in Conejos a few years ago, albeit briefly, as they are fast and are considered threatened in Mexico. Although diurnal (active during the day), they are still difficult to observe or study.

Although I have not seen one, there are readily available photos and videos; it is indeed a strange-looking small cat, with a slender body, flattened head and very long tapered tail. It is larger than a house cat, but smaller than a bobcat, and has small rounded ears and short legs, resulting in an odd gait when running, more like an otter than a feline. Its coloration varies with habitat, phases of development and/or subspecies, as the taxonomy remains unclear. Consistent, however, is that although coats are unmarked, e.g. not striped or spotted, their fur is short and smooth.

The jaguarundi’s habitat is varied, although it is typically found in lowlands from dry forests to grasslands, but always close to a source of water. Jaguarundis breed year round, with a gestation period of 70-75 days. They typically give birth to up to four kittens, in a constructed but well-hidden den. According to the literature, they are sexually mature after two years. Their lifespan in the wild is not known, although in captivity they have lived up to 10 years. As per other cats, they are excellent predators, with a diet dominated by small rodents and reptiles, although they have been known to consume invertebrates and even vegetation. The chief threat to their survival is loss of habitat.

So please keep your EYE out for this beautiful and rare animal. Let the local guides know if you have seen one.

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