The jaguarundi is a unique beast. Although it is one of six species of wildcat in Costa Rica, it does not particularly resemble a cat. Their long, slender bodies and short noses often leave lucky observers confused as to what they just saw. Often, they do not know if they have just seen a species of feline or a kind of big weasel.
Once while working in a wildlife rehabilitation and release center, a tourist approached me hesitantly with her camera. She told me that she had taken a photo of a black cat the day before while hiking in a national park and wanted me to identify the species. She proudly displayed her camera and on the small screen was a beautifully framed photo of a tayra.
She thought she photographed a jaguarundi and could be forgiven for the mistake. At 26 inches long and about 11 pounds, a tayra is a black jaguarundi-sized weasel that is about the same height, weight, and color as the color phase jaguarundi. black.
This brings us to another unique characteristic of the jaguarundi. It has several color phases, which means that within this species there are individuals of several different colors. In Costa Rica, you can find black, gray, some kind of grizzled brown/gray, and even orange individuals. What is really crazy is that a single-colored phase female can have babies of different colors.
They say that if you are lucky enough to see wild cat species in Costa Rica, you are more likely to spot a jaguarundi. There are several reasons for this.
First, they can survive in a wide range of habitats. If you look at a map of the species’ range in Costa Rica, you can find it in almost every region of the country.
Second, they are the most diurnal feline species in Costa Rica. This means that they are active during the day, spending much of the day roaming the ground of their territory in search of food.
So, you could be hiking in environments ranging from the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste to the lush forests of Osa and have a chance of spotting this unique cat. It’s easy to identify. Remember it’s black or gray or orange and doesn’t really look like a cat. Ok, maybe it’s not so easy to identify.
My personal experience with the jaguarundi reflects its wide range across the country. I was lucky enough to quickly spot an adult in the orange phase at the Hacienda El Viejo National Wildlife Refuge in Guanacaste.
I have recorded numerous videos of all color phases in trail camera projects across the country including Guanacaste, Limon and Osa. In a camera trap project with the coast of Guanacaste, I recorded an orange adult female and a black juvenile walking on a wildlife trail during the day.
The contrast of the two individuals of different colors was remarkable. In another project on a property with a section of wetlands, also in Guanacaste, I recorded several videos over several years of at least two individuals hunting black-bellied whistling ducks. Video recorded an orange female moving through tall grass near a pond full of ducks with a week-old juvenile in tow, presumably training to become the next generation of duck hunters.
Please enjoy the attached video of jaguarundis captured in camera trap projects across Costa Rica and learn to love the jaguarundi. It really is a unique beast.
About Vincent Losasso
Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Watch, is a biologist who works with camera traps across Costa Rica. Discover his projects on: