Scientific name: Herpailurus yaguarundi.
From Texas, in the South of the United States to South America, up to 2000 masl5.
León Breñero or Yaguarundí is a discreet animal, and it is also a little known by many people. However, it is confused with other large cats, such as the melanin jaguar (Panthera onca). This confusion has given it the possibility to recover its population and follow its ecological functions.
Eyra cat in Costa Rica
In the same way that many large cats need to have enough space to carry out their activities, the Leoncillo needs a big space to survive, which is why it was found throughout the national territory a few years ago.
However, today its habitat is highly restricted due to human activities, although this is not a reason to consider it a threatened species in Costa Rica. The Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature indicates that its conservation status is Least Concern4.
This animal is especially challenging to see, but it can be seen in Savannas and bushes, the typical ecosystems that can be found in management sites like Palo Verde National Park in Guanacaste Province5. Nonetheless, in some parts of the country, especially in very rural areas, it is considered a plague because it eats domestic animals, like chicken, when looking for food1.
Besides, in the indigenous cultures, it is considered a symbol of power and is represented in crafts and stories like other big wild cats in the region.
As a part of the Carnivorous Order, the Yaguarundí is an animal adapted to find, stalk, chase, and kill its prey. This animal is part of the Family Felidae. It has characteristics such as a rounded head, a small mouth with tactile hairs, and a skin that can be mottled or striped. However, it depends on if it is in its juvenile state or its adult stage, also it has retractable claws, and its legs are digitigrade. It walks on their toes, with five fingers on the front legs and four digits on the hind legs5.
In the specific case of Herpailurus yaguarundi, this feline can weigh between 3.5 and 7.0 kilos, with a size of 0.75 centimeters in height and 0.51 centimeters in length3. In general, it is a lonely animal, with arboreal habits, and an outstanding swimmer. Besides, it usually eats fish, birds, monkeys, and fruits.
Sometimes, the offsprings have spotted skin during their most juvenile stage. This characteristic is not very common to see. It is more common to find family members with three different colors that appear throughout their life in the same group, and those are: black, gray, and reddish5.
Seven interesting facts about the Yaguarundí
1) Sometimes it is confused with the melanic jaguar (Panthera onca), because of its shape and color. Also, with the tolomuco (Eira barbara).
2) It can be of daytime or night habits compared to other wild cats that only come out at night.
3) Unlike felines that are more representative in the ecosystems, these are not considered a key species or umbrella species.
4) In Costa Rica, the Leoncillo is under threat, although on a global scale, its conservation status indicates that it is in the Least Concern.
5) Even though it is in the least Concern status, threats, such as hunting, urbanization, and agricultural border growl, reduce its habitat and make a competitive environment with other wild cats like the Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis )2.
6) In the same way that happens with other wild cat species, it is also affected by highways.
7) With the right measures and the proper care, it can live up to 15 years in captivity6.
The management of the Eyra cat in Costa Rica ex situ
Leoncillo needs a big space to live well in captivity, and for that reason, its management includes a large enclosure where it can move with not many limits. As this animal has arboreal habits and is a good swimmer, it must have artificial structures in its compound where it can climb and hide its food. It also needs a space with water where the feline can cool off when it wants to. These elements, simple as they may seem, allow the animal to behave similarly to what it would have in its natural environment, thus reducing its stress from remaining in captivity.
The diet of the Eyra cat
About its diet, this is complemented with different kinds of meat, mainly the parts that can provide enough fibers and proteins, such as visors, livers, and heart; moreover, food supplements that can help it to have good health and physical appearance.
Furthermore, there is a protocol that regulates the feeding frequency—the food is offered in the way not to change its feeding behaviors. The Eyra cat in Costa Rica, as a predator, this species does not usually have success when hunting or eats as frequently as it does in captivity.
In NATUWA, we work for wildlife conservation, and we try to rescue wild felines like Yaguarundí as an effort to conserve its population and teach the people about the importance of this species through environmental education.
To conserve the Eira cat in Costa Rica, we must protect its habitat, which is threatened by anthropogenic actions. Many people are fascinated by the beauty of this beautiful cat when visiting NATUWA. Hopefully, we can preserve it in nature where it belongs for the enjoyment of the next generations.
1Amien, R; Blanco, K; & Morera, C. (2015). Felinos de Costa Rica: Compendio de investigaciones realizadas en la UNA. [Archivo pdf]. Retrieved from: http://www.observatorioambiental.una.ac.cr/index.php/documentos-observatorio/librosoa-biodiversidad?download=11:libro-felinos-de-costa-rica
2Arias, A. (2016). Puma yaguarundí. [Archivo pdf]. Retrieved from:
3Fernandez, P. (Sin fecha). Felinos en la arqueología de Costa Rica: pasado y presente. [Archivo pdf]. Retrieved from: https://museosdelbancocentral.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Brochure-Felinos.pdf
4International Unión for Nature Conservation. (2020). Jaguarundi. Herpailurus yaguarundi. Retrieved from: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/9948/50653167
5Mora, J. (2000). Los mamíferos silvestres de Costa Rica. San José, Costa Rica: EUNED.
6Solano, A. (2016). Yaguarundi en cautiverio regresara a su hábitat. Retrieved from: https://www.nacion.com/ciencia/medio-ambiente/yaguarundi-en-cautiverio-regresara-a-su-habitat/PGVVBPQIGRC3JJZNTYDHXGTCEA/story/