The eyra, also known as the jaguarundi, is a medium-sized wild cat native to both Central and South America, found all the way from the US-Mexico border to central Argentina, including the Amazon basin, where the IUCN list classifies the species as of Least Concern, despite growing threats from deforestation and consequent habitat fragmentation. Although hunting of eyras is restricted or banned across much of their range, they are often killed by colonist farming communities, who blame them for killing poultry.
As its scientific name (Puma yagouaroundi) indicates, the eyra is closely related to the puma (Puma concolor), better known as the cougar in the US. However, while adult male pumas can weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms), the eyra is much smaller.
Eyras are about twice the size of an average domestic cat. They can grow to a shoulder height of around 35 centimeters (14 inches), and weigh up to 7 kilos (over 15 pounds). Unlike other relatively small Neotropical cats, the eyra is not spotted. In adults the coloration is uniform, although eyra cubs are spotted very early in their development. While some eyras are dark gray in color, others have reddish fur. Seen from a distance, the gray eyra morph resembles the tayra (a relative of the otter and a member of the weasel family), except for the triangular marking seen on the tayra’s chest.
The eyra’s body is long and graceful, it ears are small and rounded, and it has a narrow head which is quite small relative to its body size. Its muscular tail grows to around 52 centimeters (20 inches) in length, thereby adding around 50% to its overall body length.
Like other wild cats, the eyra is a solitary animal. Individuals establish and occupy a large range within their preferred forest habitat, only seeking out another member of their species for mating. Because eyras are so alert and elusive, it can be difficult to spot them in the forest, as they blend with the shadows of the forest floor and understory. More often heard than seen, their broad repertoire of vocalizations ranges from purring to screeching, whistling, yapping, and even a distinctly bird-like chirping.
Unlike some of their small wild cat cousins, such as the ocelot, eyras are mostly diurnal, preferring to patrol their territory and hunt during the daytime and early evening. They are most active during the late morning and at midday. And unlike some other cats, such as the margay, eyras are predominantly ground-based, despite the fact that they are certainly abler climbers than ocelots. Roaming through the forest floor, eyras tend to prey on reptiles, rodents, small mammals such as marmosets, and ground-based birds. While it is not known how long this elusive creature lives in the wild, individual eyras have been known to live for up to fifteen years in captivity.
Eyras inhabit the forests that flank the Tambopata River, where we operate our itineraries, together with other wild cats including jaguars, pumas, ocelots and margays, indicating through their presence the continued good health of the ecosystems we help to conserve and protect.