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A Journey Into Paradise

Wild Cats of the Mexican Caribbean

11 December, 2013

The beautiful Mexican Caribbean is home to many different kinds of stunning tropical foliage and a variety of wildlife. Some of the region’s most popular residents are the wild cats,which include the Margay,the Oncilla and the Jaguarundi.

Also known as the Long Tailed Spotted Cat,the Margay looks very much like an ocelot and reaches between 30 and 50 inches in length,weighing in at between 9 and 20 pounds at full maturity. Despite this relatively small body size,the Margay has exceptionally long legs,especially compared to its close feline relatives. In addition,the Margay is characterized by large eyes,which enable it to see very well at night.

The Margay is also quite elusive,which has hampered efforts to study its behavior. It dwells much of the time in the treetops of the Yucatan forests,sleeping the day away before waking to hunt at night. Interestingly,the Margay is well adapted to life in the treetops and has developed the skill of rotating their hind legs inward to descend the trunks of trees. Its prey includes the many birds,frogs,insects and monkeys that call the forest canopy home,but it also supplements this diet with certain fruits. The Margay is endangered in many areas due to over hunting.

Even smaller than the Margay,the Oncilla is one of the smallest wild cats indigenous to the Americas,averaging only five pounds at full maturity. Their light brown or ochre grey coats feature large dark brown or black spots,while their underbellies are typically lighter colored and feature small black spots. Dainty in build with a small,narrow head and a distinct white line above each eye,as well as eyes that glow gold or light brown. These beauties are excellent climbers and do very well in the treetops of the Mexican Caribbean,typically feeding on smaller prey than other cats in the region. As a result,they are able to share a habitat with the larger Margay without conflict. Generally solitary and nocturnal,the Oncilla dines mainly on small birds,insects,rodents and reptiles.

By contrast,the Jaguarundi boasts a very unique appearance and is often compared to a weasel due to its narrow,elongated body,short legs,small,flat skull and long otter-like tail. It boasts a sleek,unmarked coat that is typically either black,red or brownish-grey in color,weighing in at anywhere from six to 20 pounds at maturity. The Jaguarundi stands around 10-14 inches tall at the shoulder and can be up to 55 inches in length,with the darker colored variety showing up more commonly in the region’s rainforests and the lighter colored variety typically found in drier areas.

Initially,the red colored Jaguarundi was believed to have been a different species of wildcat altogether,but it was eventually discovered that this color is common among the species and shows up regularly alongside its black and brownish-grey littermates. Unlike the region’s Margay and Oncilla’s the Jaguarundi prefers to hunt and sleep on the ground and does not prefer to climb without good reason. They are also avid swimmers with no fear of the water and prefer a diet rich in the area’s many birds,small animals,insects and fish.

Interestingly,the Jaguarundi likes to sleep with their arms folded underneath their body and their tails wrapped around them to form a ball. They are generally timid and fearful of humans,so there is no need to be fearful if you stumble upon one in the wild. Although they may seem harmless and cute,however,do not approach or try to pet a Jaguarundi – like most wild animals,they are best appreciated from a safe distance!