Herpailurus yagouaroundi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Herpailurus yagouaroundi
Species Authority: (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803)
Common Name(s):
English Jaguarundi, Eyra Cat
Spanish Leoncillo, Gato Colorado, Gato Moro, León Brenero, Onza, Tigrillo, Yaguarundi, Yaguarundí
Felis yagouaroundi É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803
Herpailurus yagouaroundi (Lacépède, 1809) [name invalid]
Puma yagouaroundi (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803)
Taxonomic Notes: Johnson et al. (2006) and Eizirik et al. (2008) placed yagouaroundi in the genus Puma. However, Agnarsson et al. (2010) noted that the Jaguarundi is not a sister species to the Puma. More recently Segura et al. (2013) looked at cranial development within the Puma clade and found that while this is similar in Cheetah and Puma, that of the Jaguarundi is quite different. Given these phylogenetic uncertainties, and these and other morphological and behavioural differences, the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group retains this species in Herpailurus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
The jaguarundi is much less abundant than previously perceived and needs to be monitored in the future as the threats persists and will likely fragment and reduce the overall population. It is more commonly associated with savanna formations than dense rainforest (where it usually ranks low within the felid guild – Oliveira et al. in submission), therefore habitat conversion to industrial agriculture of the Brazilian savannas of the Cerrado biome should posse a serious threat for the species. With density estimates considerably low and the negative impact of ocelots (Oliveira et al. in press) it is likely that no conservation units, with the probable exception of the mega-reserves of the Amazon basin could sustain long-tern viable populations of jaguarundis. This species could already be Near Threatened (A3c), however, there is not currently enough information to make this judgment. Therefore it should be periodically reviewed (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
2002 Least Concern
1990 Indeterminate (IUCN 1990)
1988 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Indeterminate (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
1982 Indeterminate (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The jaguarundi occurs from the eastern lowlands of Chipinque National Park in Nuevo Leon, MX (NE limit) and the western lowlands of Mexico, all the way to southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay (Dotta et al. 2007) and south through central Argentina at ca. 39ºS. This is predominantly a lowland species ranging up to 2,000 m, but in Colombia has been reported up to 3,200 m (Cuervo et al. 1986) It is probably extinct in the US (south Texas) (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002, A. Caso pers. comm. 2007).
Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Possibly extinct:
United States (Texas)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Contrary to earlier characterizations of this species as relatively common and abundant (Nowell and Jackson 1996), research indicates that the jaguarundi is an uncommon, low density species. Densities are very low everywhere it has been sampled, and jaguarundis are more commonly found at 0.01-0.05/km² or lower (Oliveira et al. in submission), but reaching up to 0.2/km² in a few and restricted high density areas (A. Caso pers. comm.). The jaguarundi’s density/numbers are negatively impacted by those of the larger sized ocelot (the “ocelot effect”) (Oliveira et al. in press). Considered Near Threatened in Argentina (Diaz and Ojeda 2000) and Threatened in Mexico (SEMARNAP 2001).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The jaguarundi occupies a broad range of both open and closed habitats, from Monte desert, semi-arid thorn scrub, restinga, swamp and savanna woodland to primary rainforest (Nowell and Jackson 1996). However, in open areas it sticks to vegetative cover, including secondary growth habitat, disturbed areas, and human induced grasslands (Mexico), open areas with some protection, provided forest or other dense cover is present (Oliveira 1994, A. Caso pers. comm.). This felid is perceived as more tolerant of human disturbance due to its use of open habitats.

This small-sized felid (5 kg) body shape suggests the species to be mostly terrestrial. However, it moves about easily in trees (Oliveira 1994). Its litter size is 1.9 kittens (1–4). Because it is mostly diurnal, it tends to be the most easily seen Neotropical felid, which lead to the false assumption it was common. Diet includes mostly small mammals, birds and reptiles, with a mean prey mass of 380 g. However, larger sized prey (>1 kg) are not unusual (Oliveira and Cassaro 2005, Oliveira et al. in press). Home range size varies greatly, ranging up to 100 km², larger than for any other Neotropical small cat (Konecny 1989). The species is not the dominant small cat species in most areas, even in most areas of open habitats. Additionally, jaguarundi is also negatively impacted by ocelots (the “ocelot effect”) (Oliveira et al. in press). It has several colour morphs - brownish-black, grey and reddish yellow - which can even be found in the same litter (Oliveira 1998).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is generally not exploited for commercial trade, although jaguarundis are doubtless caught in traps set for commercially valuable species and may be subject to low intensity hunting pressure around settled areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Its main threats are however, habitat loss and fragmentation, especially for large scale agriculture and pasture. Jaguarundis are commonly killed for killing poultry (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix II. Populations of Central and North America are CITES Appendix I. The species is protected across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, United States and Venezuela, and hunting regulations in place in Peru (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Further studies are required on the species ecology, demographics, natural history, and threats. Populations in protected areas are expected to be very low, likely because of the impact of the higher ocelot densities (Oliveira pers. comm.). This species is often perceived as not threatened due to its visibility (it is diurnal) and use of open habitats.

Bibliography [top]

Cuervo, A., Hernadez, J. and Cadena, C. 1986. Lista atualizada de los mamíferos de Colômbia: anotaciones sobre su distribucion. Caldasia 15: 471-501.

de Oliveira, T. G. 1994. Neotropical cats: ecology and conservation. EDUFMA, São Luís, MA, Brazil.

de Oliveira, T. G. 1998. Herpailurus yagouaroundi. Mammalian Species 578: 1-6.

Dotta, G., Queirolo, D. and Senra, A. 2007. Distribution and conservation stuatus of small felids on the Uruguyan savanna ecoregion, southern Brazil and Uruguay. In: J. Hughes and R. Mercer (eds), Felid Biology and Conservation Conference 17-19 September: Abstracts, pp. 105. WildCRU, Oxford, UK.

Konecny, M. J. 1989. Movement patterns and food habits of four sympatric carnivore species in Belize, Central America. Advances in Neotropical Mammalogy: 243-264.

Nowell, K. and Jackson, P. 1996. Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Oliveira, T. G. de, Mazim F. D., Kasper, C. B., Tortato, M. A., Soares, J. B. G. and Marques, R. V. Submitted. Small Neotropical felids density in Brazil: a preliminary demographic assessment of the little known species. Biological Conservation.

Oliveira, T. G. de, Tortato, M. A., Silveira, L., Kasper, C. B., Mazim, F. D., Lucherini, M. Jácomo, A. T., Soares, J. B. G., Marques, R. V. and Sunquist, M. In press. Ocelot ecology and its effect in the small-felid guild in the lowland Neotropics. In: D. W. Macdonald and A. Loveridge (eds), Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Segura, V., Prevosti, F. and Cassini, G. 2013. Cranial ontogeny in the Puma lineage, Puma concolor, Herpailurus yagouaroundi, and Acinonyx jubatus (Carnivora: Felidae): a three-dimensional geometric morphometric approach. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 169(1): 235-250.

Sunquist, M. and Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. University of Chicago Press.

Citation: Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. 2008. Herpailurus yagouaroundi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 27 May 2015.
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