jaguarundi

endangered cats

  • HB Length: 53-76 cm (21-30″)
  • Tail Length: 31-52 cm (12-20″)
  • Height: 25-30 cm (10-14″)
  • Weight: 3-7 kg (6.6-15 lbs)
  • Pop. Trend: Decreasing

Jaguarundi Puma yaguarondi are one of the strangest looking of the small cats, with slender, elongated bodies, small flattened heads, and long tails more reminiscent of an otter than a cat. The short, smooth, unmarked coat shows three distinct colour phases: black, brownish grey, and a reddish brown phase known as the Eyra. The ears are short and rounded, and this is one of the few cat species not to have a contrasting colour on the backs of the ears. Their eyes are small, set closely together, and are light amber or brownish in colour. The legs are short and slender, and the tail is long and tapered.

These cats are not closely related to the other small South American cats. Genetic analysis has grouped them more closely to the Cougar Puma concolor. Their ancestors probably evolved in Eurasia and migrated to the  Americas via the Bering land bridge about 16,000 thousand years ago.

Distribution

jaguarundi range map
Click for larger image

A cat of the lowlands not generally found above 2,000 metres, Jaguarundi range from northern Mexico through Central America down to central Argentina.

These cats occupy a broad range of both open and closed habitats from grasslands, dry scrub, swamp and savannah woodland to primary forest. Access to dense ground cover seems to determine habitat suitability for these cats, and their low, slender bodies allow them to easily slip through this vegetation. They have been reported to prefer forest edges and secondary bush, but this may simply be where they are most frequently seen.

A radio telemetry study in Belize found the home ranges of these cats to be huge. Territories varied considerably between males and females, measuring 88 – 100 km2 for each of two adult males and 13 – 20 km2 for an adult female. The ranges of the males overlapped less than 5%. Both sexes used different and widely spaced portions of their ranges for irregular periods of time, rather than making regular boundary patrols.

By comparison, a study in Mexico found home ranges of 9.6 km2 for males and 8.9 km2 for females, with extensive overlapping between all genders. The higher number of cats in this area results in smaller home range sizes and more overlapping territories.

The Mexico study also found that radio-collared Jaguarundi used mature forest 53% of the time, and pasture and grassland 47%. Jaguarundi are thought to exist in very low densities in Brazil with 1-5 cats per 100 km2, but in Mexico the population is estimated at 20 cats per 100 km2.

Ecology

More active during daylight hours than other small wild cats, Jaguarundi are the most observed small cat in South America for that reason. They have frequently been observed travelling and foraging in pairs. Peak activity times are late morning and late afternoon. The study in Belize found only 15% of their activity was after sunset.

They are thought to hunt mainly on the ground and have a varied diet with rodents being the main prey species. Other foods include birds, reptiles and even fallen fruit. Their body shape would suggest terrestrial habits, but Jaguarundi have been observed seeking refuge in trees, often moving from branch to branch.

Reproduction

Adult Jaguarundi show a wide vocal repertoire, as compared to adults of other species, with 13 distinctive calls. Females are thought to be polyestrous year round in most of their range but peak mating season is late fall in the northern part of their range. Den sites include dense thickets, fallen logs overgrown with vegetation, hollow trees, and thick grassy clumps. One to four, usually two, kittens are born after an average gestation period of 70 days. The kittens are born spotted but the markings soon disappear. They begin to eat solid food at about six weeks of age. Sexual maturity is reached between 24 and 36 months. Individuals have lived up to 15 years of age.

Conservation

Although actual population numbers are unknown, their large range and lack of threat from the illegal fur trade means that Jaguarundi are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. The danger in this designation is the assumption that the population is healthy, resulting in few or no field studies to determine their  actual status.

Although actual population numbers are unknown, their habit of killing domestic poultry has not endeared the Jaguarundi to farmers, and they are subject to hunting pressure around settled areas. Their fur has never been in demand for the fur trade because of its poor quality and lack of spotting, although they are undoubtedly caught in traps set for other species. Habitat destruction and human encroachment are the main threats to their existence.

These cats are said to have been kept as pets by early Central American natives (before the Spanish conquistadors came) to control the rodent populations around villages and crops.

What animal looks like a Jaguarundi but is not even a member of the cat family?

Map courtesy IUCN Red List 2008

Updated 2016

55 Responses

  1. […] https://wildcatconservation.org/wild-cats/south-america/jaguarundi/ […]

    • We have lived and hiked along the lakes and creeks in Belton, TX with Jaguarundis as common sitings for the past 30 years. They are prolific here, often seen at dawn or dusk, are not afraid of people or dogs. Our Jaguarundis are larger than noted above, often nearly 6′ long and appear to weigh well over 40 lbs. It is always a joy to see a large wild animal lumbering along without concern for humans nearby.

      • Jaguarundi are small cats and never reach 6 feet long, but we would really love to see some photos of these cats you’re talking about!

  2. I spotted a mid size cat last night 2/19/17 attempting to cross a road very near a saltwater flat. I instantly recognized it as not being a typical house cat. The glimpse was quick and I thought I saw some sort of pattern but the coloration was far too dark to be an ocelot. Was slightly larger than a house cat, with a rounded face and rounded ears. Somewhat large eyes. The build was absolutely different than anything I’ve spotted before.
    Upon dicsussing it with some friends I found one who came face to face with one in the same region (roughly 1-2 miles north in the same wetland/ scrub. He descrivbed a classic jaguarundi. He says he has pictures somewhere and I am hoping he is able to find them.
    I went out today to track the animal but had little luck. There are trails and signs of predation but the area is fairly large. Have you any tips for trying to track him/her so I can setup a game camera? This is in Nueces county.

    • Any photos of this cat would be enormously important. If you friend can find them, please have him email them to smallwildcats@gmail.com

      • Regina Barrett

        Is thought I saw a mother and her young in a Cross the street in front of me to get to a swamp area. It had the same build and rust color. This occurred about ten years ago, in a suburb north of Tampa, FL. Just Inquiring. They were beautiful and exquisite animals.🐱

  3. Tony Myrick

    When I say hundreds of pictures. That’s of deer , raccoons, squirrels ect. I have two shots of the black cat. But the cam stayed in one spot for a year. Raccoons claimed the tree and tilted it a few times but it’s never been moved.

  4. Tony Myrick

    I live Alabama. 58 years old former lab tech for Auburn University. A recent trail cam picture of hundreds of shots on fire break trail revealed a black cat picture that is at least as large as a Bobcat taken in the same spot. I also have a second shot two days later on reveals his rear end and legs. I can gladly send you some pictures that you can use as comparison for scale. There is no nearby homes for this to be a feral cat. One look at the picture of his body and you’ll know. Where can I send you my pictures ?

    • Please send your photos to smallwildcats@gmail.com and we’ll take a look. There has never been a jaguarundi reported in Alabama but there is always the possibility your cat could be a black bobcat, which would be incredibly rare. On the other hand, you never know with wild cats…

  5. We had a breeding pair of Jaguarundi on loan from a zoo in Brazil- I am wondering about the idea that the kittens are born with spots- non of the kittens(10) that were born at our facility had spots at any time. Most of the wild cat books make the spotted kitten claim, but is it really true?

    • We don’t breed wild cats, but our resources say the kittens are born fully furred with spots on their bellies. They are not spotted like puma kittens.

  6. Cory Anderson

    Saw a grey jaguarundi at dusk in the Aransas wildlife preserve about 8 years ago in November. He was on the road in front of our car and just stopped when he heard us. We must have been able to view him for 30 – 45 seconds, before he turned and went into the brush. Long thin tail, up in the air, rounded ears and about a 1/3rd larger than a big house cat. He turned and looked right at us, before he slipped away.

  7. My husband and I were walking to the barn, at midnight, to check on a horse. I caught the reflection of a pair of eyes with the flashlight and walked over to investigate. There in the underbrush was an odd cat like creature with a long body and fox like tail, grayish in color. It was frozen in the bright light for at least a minute. Although we didn’t get a photo we did get a good long look at the little guy. We guess it was around 15 or 20 pounds and not a Bobcat; we see a lot of those. Thanks to the internet we feel sure it’s a Jaguarundi. We live in Johnson County Texas, south of Fort Worth. Sighting 11/22/16.

    • Thanks for letting us know. Not quite sure what you saw as jaguarundi have very skinny tails, but maybe he was warning you off! Will add your sighting to our growing list of repots from Texas.

  8. Judy Manning

    I saw a jaguarundi at Inks Lake State Park. I am very familiar with domestic cats having owned about a dozen! It was a dark gray color and had a long full tail. What made me realize that it wasn’t a domestic cat (there are some feral ones at Inks Lake) was the small ears and the shape of the face. I walked in it’s direction but it disappeared quickly so I couldn’t get a picture. After researching online, I am positive a jaguarundi is what I saw!

    • I’m guessing you mean Inks Lake State Park in Texas. We will add your sighting to the growing number of jaguarundi reports we are getting from folks in various parts of that state. Thanks for letting us know!

  9. Meg Jimenez

    I believe I saw one of these creatures yesterday, here in Temple, TX (which is in Central TX), around 1:45 p.m. It was creeping around an empty lot that is right next to a creek that runs through my neighborhood. I say empty lot, but there is a garage there, all that is left of the home that burned nearly a year ago. It was so odd looking to me that I stopped my car right in the middle of the road to have a look. It was probably around 18#, brownish and no markings, with a thick tail. At first I though perhaps a fox (we’ve had those around here) but it had a small, feline-ish head–definitely not a fox head. It was so odd-looking to me that I stopped in the middle of the road to watch it. I wish I had taken a picture, but was really not in a good position to do so. I drove on and later described it to my husband, who suggested that it might have been a jaguarundi (I had never heard of this animal before). I googled and sure enough, this is what I saw.

    • Officially, there are no jaguarundi in Texas. Unofficially, we are swamped with sightings from all over that state, and the descriptions always match those of the jaguarundi. It is more than possible these cats are wandering north from Mexico, but unfortunately no one who has reported them has been able to provide a photo. Without definite proof we can’t get the scientists out there, but it shouldn’t be long before someone snaps a pic of these cats in Texas!

      • Helen Brown

        I’m visiting my grand-kids in Sanger, TX. Their parents live on a rental property with close to four and a half acres, having three storage barns and overgrown brush around them mid way on the property. Two days ago, while exploring the back of the lot with the dog, we found a gray kitten. The dog and kitten were nose to nose in the brush then the kitten ran into a large pipe which the dog couldn’t fit. With the help of my grandson, we got the kitten to leave the pipe running out of sight. Fortunately, the dog was on my side of the pipe, missing the kitten’s great escape. My grandson, on the other side of the pipe, saw it leave and said it was a baby bobcat. This morning, as I glanced out the kitchen window, there was a long slender gray animal with a long tail moving toward the area toward where we spotted the kitten. It was exciting to see, I assumed it was the mother bobcat. After looking up wild cats of Texas information, it couldn’t be a bobcat. The big cat I saw fits the description of a Jaguarundi.

        • If your cat was grey and had a long tail it was not a bobcat. Late fall is peak mating season in the northern part of the jaguarundi range, so a kitten in November would make sense. We are getting flooded with jaguarundi sightings in Texas but still no one has taken a photo! If you see the cat again, please try for a picture so we can show it to the scientists.

      • Meg Jimenez

        My daughter thinks she saw one in San Marcos, Texas a couple of years ago when she was a student at the university there.

  10. Carol Masters

    Saw two of them about two weeks ago near our land. We were out walking and they crossed in front of us. Talked to my friend who has lived hear all her life. She said they (?) released some here in east Texas in the ’60s . ( Panola Co, TX)

    • We’re not aware of any release of jaguarundi in Texas, as they have never been close to endangered. The wealth of sightings we’re getting over the last couple of years likely means the cats have wandered north from Mexico.

  11. Spotted a jaguarundi in Blanco County, Texas. I fed jaguarundi at an animal rescue center in Peru everyday for a month, so I was certain that it was a jaguarundi.

  12. Here in Floyd County, Virginia – we believe we saw Black Jaguarundi in our back yard on the morning of April 21st, 2016. I remember he was about the size of a medium sized dog – black coat with long slender black body and that long thick black tail. I remember he had a dark chestnut color around his face and neck. I saw him get up and walk and he was defiantly some sort of feline wild cat with how he walked and those feline back legs!
    Today I opened my local morning paper The Floyd Press in Floyd, VA on Sept 8th, 2016 – someone in Floyd County Virginia posted article in this weeks paper that on August 30th, 2016 they were driving in Floyd midday and saw what looked like a black wild cat cross the road. They described it in the article that “The animal was black, and I thought it was a dog, but it had that thick, long tail.” So me and another person in Floyd County, Virginia have seen what looks like a black cat with long black body and long black tail that is the same size as a medium sized dog. I unfortunately did not get a picture taken of him in our yard. And there is no picture of him in The Floyd Press. Unsure exactly what type of wild black cat it is – but after I saw him in our yard back on April 21st, 2016 I thought he looked really close to a black jaguarundi. Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries is telling me that they can not determine what type of black wild cat it is until someone takes photo of him so they can determine what it is! Has anyone else heard of black jaguarondi being seen in Southwest Virginia – preferably in Floyd County, Virginia?

    • We have never had any reports of jaguarundi in Virgina, and there are no records of them ever living there. However, your cat could be an escaped zoo animal or pet. I cannot think of any other animal that looks like the one you describe. Please keep us posted if anyone gets a photo!

  13. We just saw one cross the road (about the size of a Great Dane dog) in Refigio county Texas on Hwy 2678. We thought it was a deer or large dog until we noted the long tail & body style as we approached closer.

    • Jaguarundi are not much bigger than a large house cat, but longer. They don’t come anywhere near the size of a Great Dane. Sounds like you might have seen a cougar instead!

  14. was in my pool ,alone and it was quiet in the late afternoon and a jaguarundi came through the wrought iron fence and started to come in the pools area.. It was about 30 feet away and when I yelled it went back through the fence…and down below the pool area,which has a lot of jungle..It was not really afraid..,but left..I have never seen anything like it here before..It was like a large cat ,but with the Grey coat covered with white spots… live outside of Puerto Vallarta,Mex. and it is jungle…What a treat….March 7,2016

    • We’re not actually sure what kind of cat you saw. Jaguarundi do not have any spots on their coat at all. Ocelots have spots but their coat is not generally grey. If you are sure the cat had a spotted coat, we would lean more towards it being an ocelot. What an amazingly cool thing to see from your pool!

  15. A jaguarundi crossed the road in the early evening. Malecotos, Ecuador….a gift to see this beautiful, wild , and exotic creature.

  16. I saw one of these Saturday January 9, 2016 in San Antonio on Holbrook road on my bicycle with my son. I thought it was bigger than the purported 15 lbs as max weight.

  17. I saw a black cat cross into the brush at our ranch near Junction. It was night so I did not get a good look, but saw a long black tail on bobcat size cat. Also Live Oak Ranch has a picture from a game camera. The ranch is outside of Uvalde Tx. They are definitely here.

  18. I saw a large cat cross the road the other day. I described it to my neighbor and we both came up with the jaguarundi after our internet searches. Small head, long, thick tail and darkish in color. I live in the Lake Buchanan area of the Texas Hill Country. I was about 60 to 70 feet from it but it walked slow enough to get a good look at it.

    I saw a mountain lion cross in almost the same spot about 10 years ago. Of course, I have no photos of either.

    • About a month ago driving to work I had one run across the road in front of my car. I also came home and googled as soon as I saw a picture I was surprised never heard of them before. I got a very close look at it since I had to slam on my brakes and let it run across in front of me but no pix since I was driving. I look for it every day now. North Texas here.

  19. Give me an email address I can send pictures to.

  20. Pat Bumstead, has anyone been able to produce acceptable proof and/or photographs of their jaguarundi sightings in Texas? I live in SE Oklahoma and would be very interested to know if they have gotten as far as just south of Ft Worth. Also, there is plenty of habitat in this area that I believe would be ideal for the cat’s recovery as a viable species as long as enough pairs can migrate here.

    • The jaguarundi sightings in Texas continue to come in, but to date no one has been able to provide any photographs. The last report came from 15 miles NE of Corpus Christi. Although this person said he had a photo, he has not sent it to us so we can’t confirm anything. All of these sightings might just mean something, but at this point we don’t know for sure!

  21. Karen Knustrom

    My husband believes he saw one of these today while working on a ranch in a rural area about 90 miles south of Ft Worth Texas. At the time he saw the animal he did not know what it was but after some research on the internet he has identified it as a Jaguarundi. There has been at least one other anecdotal sighting in this same rural area. We will try and get a photo if there is another sighting of this cat.

  22. I am sure I just saw one of these a few minutes ago.. I am an artist and was so shocked by it I did a quick sketch then came searching for it on google.. North East Texas

    • We get many comments and emails from people in Texas who swear they have seen a jaguarundi. Officially, this cat is not found in the USA but the increasing number of reports sure indicate something is out there. None of the people who contact us, however, have been able to provide a photograph. If we had a picture, we could perhaps get someone out there to investigate. Keep us posted if you see one again!

  23. jfgeorgetown

    03/02/2015

    I have seen one on two separate occasions within 1/4 mile of each other in Georgetown, TX. Probably the same one.

  24. There is a black one that has been seen in my pasture in north central Texas. A neighbor also managed to get a photo of the same one (or one that looked exactly like it) in his pasture about 2 miles away.

    • We are getting a lot of comments from people in north Texas who are reporting jaguarundi on their property. Unfortunately no one has been able to send us any pictures of them. We would be very interested in seeing your neighbor’s photos, as to date there has been no definite proof they live in that area. Thanks for letting us know!

  25. Username*

    I live in Gallup NM and there have been three sightings of an animal matching the description of a Jaguarundi. I work for the local Law Enforcement Agency and was wondering what type of things to look for in order to trap and relocate this animal and what things to inform my community while this animal is on the loose. There are reports of small animals missing. But I am more concerned with the safe removal and relocation of this animal. Please e-mail me with advice.

  26. I just saw one yesterday morning – crossing the road where I live with a baby rabbit as prey. I had no idea what it was, then googled it, I had no idea this species existed. It all fits. This is east of central Texas, about 5-6 miles outside of Somerville. There is habitat, and there is food (lots and lots of rabbits, among other things).

    • Is there any chance you got a photo? This is a long ways north of where jaguarundis are supposed to be in Texas. Most of them are thought to be right around the Mexico border. It would be wonderful to prove they are roaming more of the state!

    • Sophia Butler

      I realize it has been a couple of years since this post but we saw one this morning
      We live outside of College Station Texas just a few miles from last post. We are 100 percent sure of siting, as we were just feet from him. My sister was in taxidermy for years and has seen several of these cats. I have been in Veterinary Medicine for 40 years and have no doubt. Seeing the closeness of the above siting confirms it. Would love to talk to someone about this. It was a medium brown color all over, about 4 ft long.

      • We have received many reports of these cats in Texas, from reliable sources who know their animals. Unfortunately, none of the people that have contacted us have been able to provide a photograph. Scientists are a skeptical bunch, and would like photo proof before admitting the cats are there. However, I will pass your sighting on and hopefully someone will be interested enough to set up camera traps! Please let us know if you see the cat again.

  27. Aunt Raven

    Noted Texas journalist Leon Hale, a good amateur naturalist, thinks he spotted a jaguarundi at dusk in central Texas this June, 2014. Look for his blog for the Houston Chronicle.

  28. Morgen Bosler

    I just saw one of these beautiful cats cross the road in front of me while traveling from Tulum to Punta Allen . What a amazing moment !

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