Jaguarundi in the water

Jaguarundi Facts

What did I just see? If you came here because you think you saw a jaguarundi in the U.S., it’s possible, but it’s more likely this. Click to reveal the mystery animal.


Jaguarundi in the marsh
Jaguarundi in the marsh

Common Name: Jaguarundi
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Felinae (Felis)
Species: yaguarondi
Sub Species: (herpailurus yaguarondi fossata) Guatemalan Jaguarundi(H.y. cacomitli) gulf coast jaguarundi  (H.y. panamensis) Panamanian jaguarundi (H.y. toleteca) Sinaloan jaguarundi

Misc: While Jaguarundis are not native to the south-eastern United States, it is believed that a feral population exists in Florida, established from an introduced population of escaped pets in the 1940’s. They were reported to be quite easy to “tame” by early Central American natives, and were used to control rodent populations around villages. Today, it is not recommended to keep these or any other wild animal, as pets. Jaguarundis are one of the only felines to not have contrasting colors on the backs of their ears.

Size and Appearance: The jaguarundi is unique in its appearance among the felids in that it more closely resembles a weasel. They have slender, elongated bodies, short legs, a small flattened head, long “otter-like” tail, and a sleek, unmarked coat. Adults can weigh as little as 6 pounds or as much as 20. They stand 10-14 inches at the shoulder, and reach a length of 35-55 inches. Coats occur in 3 main color variations: black, brownish-grey, or red. Any or all colors can occur in a single litter, but generally the darker colors are usually found in the rain forest, while the paler color is found in the drier environments. The red color was once considered a separate species – F. eyra.

Habitat: A cat of the lowlands, not generally found above 6500 ft., Jaguarundis occupy a wide range of both open and closed habitats – from dry scrub, swamp and savannah woodland to primary forest. The factor used to determine habitat suitability is access to dense ground vegetation. Of all of the New World felines, Jaguarundis are the most adaptable in its ability to occupy diverse environments.

Distribution: Northern Mexico, Central and South America, Texas and possibly Florida.

Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 70-75 days, females produce a litter of 1-4 kittens. Like cougars and lions, newborns are spotted, and the spots soon disappear. They begin to take solid foods around the age of 6 weeks, and attain sexual maturity between 24-36 months.

In captivity, Jaguarundis have lived up to 15 years.

Social System and Communication: Jaguarundis are known to be solitary or travel and forage in pairs. They have a wide variety of vocalizations, with 13 distinct calls having been documented.

Hunting and Diet: Their primary diet is quite varied and is comprised of small rodents, rabbits, armadillos, opossums, quail, wild turkey, reptiles, frogs, fish and domestic poultry. They have also been recorded eating fish stranded in puddles.

Principal Threats: Generally not exploited for trade, they are still caught by traps that were intended for commercially valuable species. They are notorious for raiding domestic poultry and have become nuisance animals and threatened by farmers because of it. Their biggest threat is habitat destruction and human encroachment.

Status: CITES: Appendix II, Central and North American populations Appendix I. IUCN: Not listed.

Felid TAG recommendation: Jaguarundi (Herpailurus jaguarondi). Jaguarundis are uncommon in zoos, and the founder size of most zoo-held populations is only two individuals. Unless a significant number of founders are obtained from range countries, the captive population is probably not viable. Therefore, the TAG recommends this species for Phase-Out in North America. At the Annual AZA Conference (September 1999), the following four species were recommended by the Felid TAG to be ‘down-graded’ to a Phase-Out populations. For the jaguarundi, tigrina, and Geoffroy’s cat, these recommendations were made because of limited space available, the limited number of founders in these populations, and limited potential for acquiring additional founders.

Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.

See Conservation Work Funded By Big Cat Rescue here:

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  1. A black one has been spotted a few times in my neighborhood in Oglethorpe County, Georgia near Athens.

  2. My dad claims to have seen a small “black panther” cross the road in front of him as he was driving near Williston, FL on 13 April 2024 at roughly 9:30 AM.

  3. about 12 years at our deer lease above johnson city tx . one was living around our camp. it’s home was about 20 yards from camp. had a poop tree where he went to the bathroom. one of the most amazing times of my life. got to see him about 20 ft from me and he acted like he was so used to us that he didn’t care. beautiful animal

  4. I am quite certain I saw a large jaguarundi sleeking back into the woods on the northeast side of 66 Sea Breeze Drive in Shell Point, Crawfordville, FL at around 6:30 PM on February 5, 2023. Fits the description perfectly. Long dark tail compact head with small ears. Looked to me to be around 20 pounds.

  5. Spotted Jaguarundi crossing hwy in front of my car near Ink’s Lake in Central Texas. After describing it’s long length and color, face and ears of a housecat and long flat tail to the ground, local State Ranger confirmed it’s identity and stated it has been seen several times over the years, including by him. Such an exciting sighting.

  6. Saw one in the Merritt Island wildlife refuge Florida early this December. Not a panther. Not a bobcat. Asked the ranger. It was one of these. Beautiful

    1. Yes! I saw one too, back in the 1980s at the Space Center. When I asked the ranger at MIWR about it, he told me it was probably a jaguarundi.

  7. I saw one in the late 90s off of route 4 near Valrico Florida. It crossed in front of my car, low and long, like a huge otter. For years I didn’t know what I had seen.

  8. I have one that lives on my property in northeast Mississippi . It has been on the place for two years . It stays by the creek but walks the place in the daytime ..Have got pics of it .

  9. I saw one of these today at Lake Corpus Christi, Texas. At first I thought it was a fox, as they are common here, but somehow looked different. Th ears were smaller, and it was longer and had a different looking tail, and nose was shorter.

  10. Bike riding in Three Forks Marsh, Palm Bay, FL. A small catlike animal darted out on the levee from direction of a canal. It spotted me and ran away, probably running about 12mph, before running into the marsh. It appeared to have reddish brown or gray fur. This was about 2pm, not a time when most wild cats are on the move. Best guess is it was jaguarundi, an animal I have never heard of before.

  11. I live in north central Florida. I have seen at least five different ones in the past 48 years. One in Ocala Forest in 1973, one in Seminole Forest around 1986, one at Jumper Creek around 2000 and two in 2021 at Lake Pannasoffkee WMA. I know several other hunters who have seen them. For whatever reason the FWC will not acknowledge their existence. When I moved to Florida in 1973 they were listed on a game and fish pamphlet as a non native cat that included a drawing. They wanted to make sure people who were reporting panther sightings were not actually seeing Jaguarandi. Kenny Gasaway

  12. In October 2021, I saw a fully grown Jaguarundi walking with a much smaller one, probably a youngster. They were on a lawn right next to a heavily wooded area, in Palm City, Florida (western Martin County, near Stuart). The two critters came out of the woods, walked together along the edge of the woods for about 10 yards, then went back and out of sight. I got a good look at their faces and bodies. I’ve searched everywhere I could think of on the web, and Jaguarundi is the only thing they could be. I feel lucky to have seen them.

  13. Today was sitting at picnic table in front of clearing between building and swamp. Had just let our tabby and chickens out gave all treats then sat down. Within minutes one of these things grabbed my chicken by the neck from an open area nonetheless and ran toward the swamp. I chased them yelling no no no. The next few minutes was controlled chaos of grabbing the swamp boots firing BB into brush and penning the remaining chickens going back on the hunt and putting house cats up. We got her back don’t know if scared it into dropping her or if she just caught a break but she’s alive minus a lot of feathers. Assumed it was a wierd looking bobcat but I’ve seen bobcat and this one was more plain rounder head long tail light brown. Set up an old fashioned heavy snare trap and still waiting. Didn’t even know this thing existed.think will call f w c tomorrow maybe they can set more traps and get it out of here aggressive 11 30 am ish with me sitting right there and with my cat out there too. We consider it a blessed miracle our chicken is alive. This is in central Florida from an experienced hiker seen a lot of wildlife still did not expect this one.

    1. I’ve been informed by f w c that my trap is not a snare it’s just a box trap and a snare is something else. Unidentified cat currently still hiding out in swamp.

  14. I may have one behind my home. The quail covey had been between 10-12 only weeks ago. Yesterday there were only 3. This morning a cat-like creature with mottled brownish fur grabbed another and headed to the arroyo with it. It was not a bob cat and not a domestic cat. It was way too small to be a mountain lion. Sure looked like it could be a jaguarundi and if so, well fed on its quail diet. It moved so quickly, I couldn’t get a picture. I really wish it would focus on rodents. There are plenty of pack rats and chipmunks for it to munch on with presumably an equal amount of nutrition. Fawns will be coming along shortly and It best not be targeting any of them either.

  15. I was blessed to see a rare sighting of the Jaguarundi on Jan 29th , 2021 .
    I take my dogs down to the waters edge here at Horseshoe Cove RV Park in Bradenton, Florida every morning. This particular morning , it was just myself and my dogs taking a break enjoying the sun coming up. When I glanced across the water…there appeared the most interest animal I have ever seen. The descriptions fit it perfectly , the color was a tanish red.. small head, a humped back, long unusual looking tail. Very fun to watch as it drank and then hunted the shoreline. I’ve never seen anything like this animal before. The area is extreme swamp and full of all sorts of birds and small prey for it to feed upon. Now i look for it every day but I suspect I will not ever see one again. Very thankful for the opportunity to watch it for at least 5 minutes before it left the area.

  16. In June 2019 l saw a Jaguarund in my front yard at 2 am. At first l thought it was a huge house cat. Then l saw the long tail. I also thought the front legs appeared shorter than the hind legs. It was not in a hurry nor bothered by the yard light. It was light-brown in color. I live on 22 acres that borders a large ranch in Mason , Texas.

    1. My husband and I vacation in SW Texas and have seen jaguarundi both in captivity and in the wild.Big Bend. National Park area.

  17. Sometime in June of 2019 around 2 am l had gotten up to see if l could see a skunk that had been digging in our yard. I saw what l first thought was a big house cat but then saw the longer tail. I also thought the front legs appeared to be shorter than the hind legs. It was light brown in color and was not in a hurry nor bothered by our yard light. We live on 22 acres that is all brush and prickly pear. There is a large ranch on our west border. I live in Mason, Texas and have hunted all over all my life. I am 74 years old and my grandson found this site for me.

  18. I am a 67 y life-long trail rider. Yesterday on my way back to Horsepitality I saw a type of cat I had no idea what it was. Upon looking and searching the Jaguarundi is the closest I could find. It crossed 30-40 ft of open sand in the wash, went through Open vegetation and sniffed along the base of the cliff 50-70 feet away. The body was that of a large house cat with a tail about 1 1/4-1/2 the length of the body. The hair on the tail stood up vertically from the bone ~3” in diameter, carried horizontal to the ground level to the back. The tail was dark gray perhaps black tips on the hair. The body was grayish tan lighter than the tail. Small head, NO elongated snout. Ears proportional like a cat. Rounded/ pointed at tips. Head seemed small compared to the body. The legs were approximately cat sized not stout like a cougar would be. My horse was not worried about it.

    The attached google photo is the wrong color but proportions the closest. It moved like an adult not loosey Goosey like babies do. It moved with purpose not slow but not fast. Confident bearing. The Desert Museum stated AZ wildlife biologist wanted sightings. I have a game camera I can set up.

    ~1.3 miles from the horse pens. Turtlenack Wash
    N 33.946973 W 112.715320 fairly close.

    1. Maxine here again. This is in a mesquite forest water troughs for stock _.8 mi down the wash and 1 mi up the wash. Havasayampa (sp) river preserve ~ 2-3 mi away with swampy permanent water and dense vegetation. I have no other explanation for what I saw.

  19. Back in 2018 November. I was leaving Gainesville FL. Headed to Ocala FL. Though paynes prairie when I saw a cat about 4ft long black with a small head for such a big cat. It’s tail was a lot longer then the tail. I so I wrote a letter to the paynes prairie ranger office. A few days later I got a response telling I what I had seen. So now I go looking for them. I know I may never see another but hey it’s fun.

  20. I have about 30 acres of extremely dense, impenetrable “swamp” (dry or wet, depending on God) on one side of my 1800′ long lake front property, and about 1/2 acre on the other side. Not unusual to see Jaguarundis crossing my grassy yard. Saw one today, actually. I’ve been within 40′ of one. If I got some chickens, probably see a lot more of them!!!

  21. John Petrey I live in Lower Alabama, specifically Robertsdale, in a rural area. Yesterday afternoon a cat crossed the road in front of me. It was light colored, not real big, maybe even about the same size as a domestic cat, but the really unique thing about it was its' tail was extremely long. I've been looking at photos and this jaguarundi is the closest thing I can find.

  22. I made the following observation at 1000 local time in SW Ft. Worth on Sep 16, 2013, near the juncture of urban and agricultural land. An animal moved rapidly on the top of my back privacy fence and momentarily obscured horizontal light from a neighbor’s back porch. the light beam obscured was slightly more than 30 inches. The animal moved silently with an otter or ferret-like motion and it vanished. Note: I had ventured onto my back porch for fresh air while watching TV and with a lamp on mid intensity. Immediately outside, during the observation, I was not visually dark adapted. The animal was dark and without spots; head was not discernible, neither was a tail. Only the bowing back as it progressed along the fence. I asked a fellow field biologist from years past about the possibilities of genus and specie. (He worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and in the federal fish hatchery system for his work life. His answer was “….likely a jaguarundi.” I told him, “That’s my best conclusion, also.” I have made a “field log” of this event since the observation on 9/16.I would like to share this observation and the log of subsequent events if you would like.

    1. They ARE in Texas. I saw one hunting crawfish in a creek in downtown Austin, Texas in the year 2000 when I lived there. It definitely wasn’t a raccoon and it was in the day time!

      1. Yep in Austin TX and in Bastrop Ive seen them my wife’s seen them neighbors have seen them. Seen them with kittens at 20 ft seen how fast they are next to a dog chasing them heard them singing in the brush. Caught them in spotlights. I assume theres some tacit policy to not acknowledge rare wildlife game wardens say theres no badgers here too despite photos. We’re along a spring fed creek with otters and beavers whotetail mountain lions coyotes badgers skunks and bobcats galore.Old growth Post oak Savannah with thick with yaupon, cedar pine bumellia mulberry walnut and elms and saltbrush plum and switch grass thickets. Lots a rabbits, jackrabbits,swamp rabbits and woodrats/ packrats woodducks, flyingsquirrels. Used to see peccary but assume they have been displaced by the pigs.

  23. Our cat has more black to it, like thousands of tiny dots and gets darker in winter. Bobcats, coyote, and a wolf that looks eerily like that cartoon wolf with its long head and long legs who clears my 48" fence like I step over a log. Painted Bunting birds that evidently are here all year round but are very shy, bees in all shapes and sizes – I never knew bees could be so small. Hornets, I have never seen these, the size of the large humming birds – scary! Some say the hornets kill cicadas and others say tarantulas.

  24. Since the pipelines have gone through and destroyed the woods behind our house approximately a mile back, we have seen this and bobcats and birds, hornets and bees we have not seen before.

    1. We have black jaguarundi on our property in the mountains of Costa Rica… they're good at hiding so sightings are not common, but one of our workers saw one just two days ago. Feel free to visit our website, if you're interested:

      Have a great day.

    1. One has come on our property in South AL just N of FL line twice in last few days. In Conecuh national forest. Walked across in midday. We have an outdoor cat and are concerned.

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