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Length: 3 to 4 feet
Weight: 15 pounds
Lifespan: 7- 10 years
Relatives: mountain lions and cheetahs
The jaguarundi is one of the smallest cats in North America. Often referred to as otter-cats, jaguarundis have been said to have the appearance of a weasel, with a long slender body, shorter legs, and a small, flattened head with short rounded ears. The fur of the jaguarundi varies, with two common variations of their coats. If the jaguarundi has a reddish brown coat, it will more than likely have a white or cream-colored underbelly. If the fur is gray, the jaguarundi will have two white patches under its nose.
Habitat Range and Population
Jaguarundis roam the rainforests of South America and Southern Mexico. Though they are not native to the United States, feral populations of jaguarundi have been discovered in some southeastern states. It is believed that the feral populations in Florida and Texas were released in the in 1940s as escaped pets, since early Central American natives used them to control rodent populations around villages. This release created a subspecies known as the Gulf Coast jaguarundi, which is not considered an invasive subspecies but is in fact considered endangered.
The biggest threats facing jaguarundi are habitat destruction and fragmentation, both of which prevent the jaguarundi from reaching healthy breeding populations and finding vital resources of food and water.
The jaguarundi’s diet consists mostly of small rodents, reptiles, armadillos, opossums, wild turkey, and other birds. Jaguarundis compete for food resources with other native wildlife such as margays, ocelot, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and mountain lions.
Aside from habitat loss and fragmentation, the jaguarundi faces another threat: further border wall construction. Jaguarundis require dense vegetation to hunt their prey, which includes everything from birds to rodents to lizards, all of which can be found in the borderlands of the southern U.S. and northern Mexico. The borderlands present suitable habitat for jaguarundi recovery, and by further fragmenting those habitats, jaguarundis lose opportunities for sustainable recovery.
Here at Wildlands Network, we will continue to work on state legislation in our Eastern Wildway to protect habitats for these mysterious felines, as well as on binational agreements with our partners in the borderlands to ensure jaguarundis can access suitable habitat without the fear of being blocked off from vital resources by border wall construction.