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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Order Carnivora : Family Felidae : Felis yagouaroundi Geoffroy

Jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi).  Photo by John L. Tveten.Description. Small, slender-bodied, long-tailed, unspotted, weasel-like cat; size somewhat larger than the ordinary alley cat; legs short for a cat; two color phases. Grayish phase: upperparts grizzled, salt-and-pepper gray; underparts slightly paler; more black in winter pelage. Red phase: upperparts reddish, intermixed with blackish; head and legs more brownish; lips and throat usually whitish. Dental formula as in the mountain lion. External measurements of an adult male: total length, 1,070 mm; tail, 572 mm; hind foot, 137 mm; females usually smaller.

Distribution in Texas. Brush country of extreme southern Texas in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties — where it is rare.

Habits. Jaguarundis are denizens of the dense, thorny thickets of southern Texas where cacti, mesquite, cat claw, granjeno, and other spine-studded vegetation abounds. There, these cats live a life of relative safety because such thickets are almost impenetrable to both dogs and man which are their chief enemies. They spend most of their time on the ground, but they are expert climbers and garner part of their food in the trees and bushes. They are largely active at night but move about a good deal in the daytime, often going to water to drink at midday. One of us (Davis) saw an individual cross the highway early one afternoon near the city of Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico, using a graceful gait somewhat like that of a disjointed lope. The cat disappeared immediately in the "wall" of brush and could not be followed.

Their food consists of rats, mice, birds, and rabbits. They also are reputed to make inroads on poultry. Robert Snow has stated that their chief food is birds and that the young in the dens are fed a similar diet. He reported seeing one old cat spring about 1.5 m into the air and knock feathers out of a low-flying dove. An analysis of stomach contents from 13 Venezuelan jaguarundis revealed the remains of lizards, rodents, small birds, cottontail rabbits, and grass.

Their breeding habits are not well-known. F. B. Armstrong was of the opinion that they have no regular breeding season. He found young in both summer and winter, born probably in March and August. This suggests two litters of two young each year. Snow has found their dens under fallen trees grown over with grass and shrubs and in thickets. They were merely "forms" in this protective cover. He has found young in the den only in March, the number always being three. The young of a litter may all be slate blue, all chocolate brown, or some of them may be blue and the others brown. He reported finding several litters in the vicinity of Raymondville, Willacy County. No information is available on their home life, growth, and development.

This cat is too rare in the United States to be of economic importance. Its pelt is of little value on the fur market. The clearing of brushlands in the Rio Grande Valley threatens to destroy its habitat in Texas, and it is now regarded as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo credit: John L. Tveten.