Jaguarundi - On The Prowl of Costa Rica's Wilderness

Jaguarundi

October 7th, 2013 by Anamaya Resort

Biology

Jaguarundi can be found from northern Argentina to the south-western part of the United States. Their primary habitat lowlands, but they can be also be spotted high as 10,000ft. They seem to prefer regions enclosed with low or undersized shrubs or trees, close to water bodies, than dense and large areas of wet jungles. In contrast most other cats in Central America, the Jaguarundi is very diurnal, and has a circular pupil perhaps for this reason. Its face looks highly intimidating compared to other cats because of its ominous eyes, body proportions, and coat color. An adult jaguarundi weighs approximately 11 lbs and is about 26 inches in length. The jaguarundi is a small slender cat (looks weasel- like) with small legs and a peculiarly flattened forehead and tinyears. It has a dark, brownish, grayish, or reddish coat. Since they vary color significantly, their species was once believed to be two distinct species until the twentieth century. Jaguarundis are often confused with other species from the weasel family such as the tayra as well as the gray fox. While other cats prefer to avoid confrontation, the Jaguarundi is known to aggressive when provoked.

The jaguarundi is the most commonly spotted wildcat, since unlike all the other Costa Rican cats, the jauarundi is primarily active during daytime. It is a highly adept climber and will scale trees when chased, or procure food. Generally, this cat forages on the ground. The diet of a jagarundi comprises of small rodents, lizards, birds, iguanas, lizards and arthropods. Studies have shown it will also eat opossums, small monkeys, leaves, and various fruits to bring about more variety into its diet.

For no obvious reason, the jaguarundi has a wide range, even wider than that of the jaguar. For a cat of their size, they can cover large distances, sometimes wandering for up to four to six miles a day. Adult jaguarundis never settle in any one place forever. They are constantly on the move in search of food and shelter and cover remarkably huge distances. This seems to be the pattern despite the fact that they don’t have any special dietary needs. It is thought that the competition with other carnivores may be a fundamental cause of their hyperactive movement pattern.

The gestation period for a jagarundi is about two and half months, at the end of which they will produce one to four kittens. They move away from their den in a few months and reach sexual maturity at about two years. The jaguarundi doesn’t seem to hunt as much as its cousins – the margay and ocelot. It also seems to adapt and adjust to the more turbulent and ruffled habitats, thus enabling it to sustain a steady population throughout. The other Costa Rican cats don’t seem to do as well as the jaguarondi when it comes to maintaining their numbers. For all its survival skills, this highly adaptive cat often becomes the target of hunters and farmers.

Jaguarundis are fundamentally diurnal, being active during the day rather than evenings or night. They are at home in trees, but prefer hunting on the ground. They will eat almost any small animal they can lay their hands on, typically including mixture of rodents, small reptiles, and ground-feeding birds in their diet. They have also been observed to kill larger prey animals, such as rabbits, and opossums. The jaguarondis unusual prey include fish and sometimes marmosets. Similar to other cats, they also incorporate a small portion of vegetation in their diets.

Although they seem to be somewhat more outgoing than many cats, willing to accommodate the presence of other members of their species, in the wild, they are mostly spotted alone, suggesting a penchant for a solitary lifestyle. Their home range is wider than many other members of the cat family. Depending on the local environment; individuals have been reported as moving territories from 6.8 to 100 km2 (2.6 to 39 sq mi). Typical to many cats, they mark their territory by scratching the ground or nearby branches, head-rubbing, urination, and leaving their faeces uncovered. They can be shy and reclusive, and are very perceptive and cautious of traps. Jaguarundis are capable of making curiously wide range of vocalisations such as purrs, whistles, yaps, chattering sounds, and even bird-like chirps.

Two or more jaguarondis will often be spotted traveling together, mostly y a mother with her offspring. She will have two or more young ones at a time in a den, hollow log or treefall. Although the jaguarundi mostly rests and hunts on the ground, it skilled at climbing trees quickly. This cat is active in the early morning and late afternoon, and often treads dense underbrush near water, valley forests, peripheries of gallery forests, or secondary forest by community settlements. Again a peculiarity, this cat does not necessarily avoid settled regions, and is known pick up chickens from village settlements. Despite its daylight hunting patterns, this is still a sly cat, not commonly spotted, and mostly seen by farm workers owing of its hours of hunting activity.

Where To Spot Them

The jaguarundis can be spotted at the Corcovado National Park, the La Amistad International Park Costa Rica-Panama, the La Selva Biological Station, the Movteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve, the Santa Rosa National Park and the Sirena Biological Station. Our guests are very unlikely to see wild cats in the jungle. They hide well, are mostly nocturnal, and avoid encounters with humans which they can cleverly sense from far.

In Costa Rica wild cats can be seen in the Simon Bolivar Zoo in San José where they are kept in tiny concrete cages. A far better place for the wild cats is Las Pumas in Guanacaste, an animal rescue center whose main intention is to release the animals into wilderness after ensuring their safety. The public zone, which visitors are allowed to visit, hosts animals which wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. At Las Pumas you can see jaguars, pumas, ocelots, margay cats, jaguarundis amongst other animals. Las Pumas is located on the Interamericana, 4.5 km past Canas on the way to Liberia. Admission is $7 and donations are welcome.

Anamaya yogis can go hiking around the Montezuma beach area early in the morning, since that’s the best possible time for wildlife spotting. You can spot the region’s famed monkeys, anteaters, agoutis, deers and if you’re lucky even members of the cat family like pumas and jagurandis (most of which are highly active during the day.