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The Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi or Herpailurus yagouaroundi) is a smallish cat that can be found in Central and South America. This is a cat of many names, including eyra cat, onza, tigrillo, gato colorado, leon brenero, gato moro and leoncillo. But the original etymology of its common name, Jaguarundi, is from the old Tupi word yawaum'di.
Jaguarundis are unusual-looking wild cats, with short legs and an elongated body, and a proportionally-long tail. Their heads and hears are shaped differently, with the skulls coming to a delicate point on the nose, with small, close-set eyes. The ears are set far back on the skull. They can grow up to 30 inches (77 cm) in body length, with a 24-inch (60 cm) tail. They can weigh up to 20 pounds (9 Kg). Their coats generally fall into one of two phases - the gray phase, and the red phase. Initially these differently-colored cats were thought to be separate subspecies, but individuals of both color phases can be born to the same litter.
There are currently eight recognized subspecies of Jaguarundi:
- Puma yagouaroundi yagouaroundi (Amazon rainforests and Guyana)
- Puma yagouaroundi armeghinoi (west Argentina and eastern Chile)
- Puma yagouaroundi cacomitli (Gulf Coast)
- Puma yagouaroundi eyra (Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil)
- Puma yagouaroundi fossata (Guatemala)
- Puma yagouaroundi melantho (Peru)
- Puma yagouaroundi panamensis (Nicaragua to Ecuador)
- Puma yagouaroundi tolteca (western Mexico, possibly Arizona and Sonora)
Jaguarundis are diurnal, most active during the day. They hunt on the ground but are not uncomfortable with climbing trees. They feed primarily on small animals like reptiles, amphibians, rodents and birds, but have been known to catch prey as large as rabbits and opossums, and the occasional fish. They live a solitary lifestyle, but they are more tolerant of members of their own species than other types of cats. They have been observed to spend a little time in each other's company.
Female Jaguarundis will give birth to a litter of one to four kittens after a 75-day gestation period. She will find a birthing den in order to raise her kittens safely, like a hollow tree or thicket. The kittens are born with spots on their bellies, which fade as they reach maturity.
Jaguarundis are not a target for hunters because of their fur, but they are declining in population because of habitat loss. Still, they are considered a species of Least Concern by the IUCN due to their overall healthy numbers, but it's possible that Jaguarundis will be extirpated from parts of their current range.