Gulf Coast jaguarundi
|Gulf Coast jaguarundi|
|Subspecies:||P. y. cacomitli|
|Puma yagouaroundi cacomitli
The Gulf Coast jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi cacomitli) is one of four subspecies of jaguarundi. Two of these subspecies—the Gulf Coast jaguarundi and the Sinaloan jaguarundi—are considered endangered and were put on the endangered list on June 14, 1976. These cats are placed under the family Felidae and the subfamily Felinae because of their small size.
This cat is larger than a normal domestic cat, but smaller than a puma. It has been compared to a weasel and otter. Their fur is of a dark-brown or grayish color because they reside in low-light areas such as forests and thick shrubs. Their otter-like appearance is shown in their short legs and long, flat tails. The weasel-like appearance stems from having a small, flat head, short, round ears and a long slender body. Their body size can reach up to 77 centimeters and their tail up to 60 centimeters in length. Their average weight is about 6 kilograms.
The Gulf Coast jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi cacomitli) is a subspecies of jaguarundi that ranges from southern Texas in the United States south to Veracruz and San Luis Potosí in eastern Mexico. This cat looks like a large weasel or otter with a coat in one of three color phases: black, reddish-brown or brownish-gray. Darker varieties tend to be found in darker places, like forests, than those who are lighter in hue, which prefer more open areas.
The Gulf Coast jaguarundi can be found in the Western Gulf coastal grasslands, Tamaulipan mezquital, and Tamaulipan matorral. Its preferred habitat are regions of dense, thorny scrub, especially near water, composed of plants such as Spiny Hackberry (Celtis pallida]]), Brazilian Bluewood (Condalia hookeri), Desert Yaupon (Schaefferia cuneifolia), Berlandier's Wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri), Lotebush (Ziziphus obtusifolia), Texas Goatbush (Castela texana), Whitebrush (Aloysia gratissima), Catclaw Acacia (Senegalia greggii), Blackbrush Acacia (Vachellia rigidula), Velvetleaf Lantana (Lantana velutina), Texas Lignum-vitae (Guaiacum angustifolium), Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens), Elbowbush (Forestiera angustifolia), and Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana).
Habitat loss is the main reason for the increase in mortality for the jaguarundi. Not enough information has been gathered about the jaguarundi, and because these animals are not widely studied their significance is unclear. Many people remain unaware of this species’ existence, which is contributing to the extinction of the animal.
The jaguarundi is closely related to the cougar, even though it’s only 10% its size; this is proven by its similar genetic structure and chromosome count. Both species are genetically closer to the larger felids; their chromosome numbers are 38, similar to the jaguar’s, while smaller felids have 26 chromosomes. The jaguarundi and cougar are classified as part of the Puma genus but the jaguarundi is sometimes classified under Herpailurus, a different genus. According to a study of Felidae, an ancestor of the puma genus, lineages of these species migrated across the Bering land bridge into the Americas about 8 to 8 and a half million years ago, and that is how current populations of jaguarundis and cougars in the Americas came to be.
Studies have shown that the closest relative to both the jaguarundi and cougar is the modern cheetah of Africa and Western Asia. The relationship of the cheetah to the jaguarundi is still being debated. One theory is that ancestors of the cheetah separated from the Puma lineage in the Americas, and migrated back to Asia and Africa. Another idea is that the cheetah diverged from the lineage in Asia and Africa. It is also hypothesized that the evolution of the jaguarundis came about because an isolated population of cougars began focusing on small prey to avoid competition with larger predators like jaguars, saber-tooths, and lions. Studies suggest that cougars usually take smaller prey than jaguars, and that there is not a lot of overlap in their choices of prey. In some places with scarce prey available, the ancestral population of cougars may have been forced to hunt even smaller prey, and this led to the eventual formation of smaller animals, the jaguarundis.
Mating season for the jaguarundi is believed to be in the months of November and December. A female jaguarundi’s pregnancy cycle, or gestation period, lasts about 70–75 days. At the time of birth, the female will have anywhere between 1–4 kittens, each weighing 4–7 kilograms. Like their relative, the cougar, the kittens between the ages of 0 and 12 weeks will have spots on their coats; however, around month 3 or 4, the kittens’ spots are lost. At 6 weeks of age, the cats will begin eating solid foods, usually rodents. Shortly after, they leave their mothers, and within 2–3 years, achieve sexual maturity. Their life expectancy is very impressive, ranging from 16–22 years in captivity. In the wild, its longevity is approximately 10–15 years, a feat most attributable to their well-protected den.
The jaguarundi has a carnivorous diet. The animals they hunt tend to be relatively small animals. Small mammals, birds, frogs, and fish are a few of the wide variety of prey that the jaguarundi feeds on. These cats may have adapted to eating a wide variety of animal because of the scarcity of food.
Recently, it has been suggested by some environmentalists that the jaguarundi, and many other fauna unique to Southern Texas, will be severely threatened if a proposed 16 foot wall is constructed along segments of the Mexico–United States border.
As categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Gulf Coast jaguarundi is currently endangered, so conservation efforts are being implemented by the Fish and Wildlife Service. As a federal governmental agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats, the agency has proposed steps to take to reestablish jaguarundi populations, but has so far failed to fulfill many of them. Some of these steps include assessing habitat and land connectivity to support viable populations, developing survey techniques to ascertain their status and better understand their ecological and conservation needs, and developing partnerships to help promote jaguarundi conservation. The biggest threat to the Gulf Coast jaguarundis is the Mexico–U.S. border fence, as it fragments populations and prevents migration. Additionally, jaguarundis are facing habitat loss, so the Fish and Wildlife Service is planting shrubs and plants found in a jaguarundi’s natural environment in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
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