Tolomuco or Perico ligero (Central America), Motete (Honduras), Irara (Brazil), San hol or Viejo de monte (Yucatan Peninsula), High-woods dog (or historically Chien bois) in Trinidad
The Tayra is a forest-dwelling mammal native to the Americas. These animals belong to the weasel family. They have long, slender bodies with an appearance similar to weasels and martens. Males are larger, and slightly more muscular, than females. They have short, dark brown to black fur which is relatively uniform across the body, limbs, and tail, except for a yellow or orange spot on the chest. The fur on the head and neck is much paler, typically tan or greyish in color. Albino or yellowish individuals are also known and are not rare among tayras. Their feet have toes of unequal length with tips that form a strongly curved line when held together. The claws are short and curved, but strong, being adapted for climbing and running rather than digging. The pads of the feet are hairless but are surrounded by stiff sensory hairs. The head has small, rounded ears, long whiskers, and black eyes with a blue-green shine.
Tayras are found across most of South America east of the Andes, except for Uruguay, eastern Brazil, and all but the most northerly parts of Argentina. They are also found across the whole of Central America, in Mexico as far north as southern Veracruz, and on the island of Trinidad. They generally live only in tropical and subtropical forests, although they may cross grasslands at night to move between forest patches, and they also inhabit cultivated plantations and croplands.
Tayras are diurnal animals, although occasionally active during the evening or at night. They usually travel alone or in pairs, but occasionally can be seen in small groups of 3-4 individuals. They usually move rapidly through the trees or on the ground. Tayras are very fast runners and despite their poor eyesight are excellent climbers as well. They are able to climb down smooth tree trunks from heights of more than 40 meters. On the ground or on large horizontal tree limbs, they use a bounding gallop when moving at high speeds. They can also leap from treetop to treetop when pursued. They generally avoid water but are capable of swimming across rivers when necessary. They locate prey primarily by scent, and actively chase it once located, rather than stalking or using ambush tactics. Tayras live in hollow trees or burrows in the ground. Individual animals maintain relatively large home ranges, with areas up to 24 km2 (9.3 sq mi). They may travel at least 6 km (3.7 mi) in a single night. These are usually silent animals, but when alarmed, tayras produce a short, barking call and may snort, growl, and spit while seeking protection in a nearby tree. They can also communicate with the help of yowls, snarls or clicks when in groups.
Tayras are opportunistic omnivores, hunting rodents, and other small mammals, as well as birds, lizards, and invertebrates. They will also climb trees to get fruit and honey.
Little is known about the mating system in this species. Tayras breed year-round and gestation lasts from 63 to 67 days. Females give birth to 1-3 young, which they care for alone. The young are altricial, being born blind and with closed ears, but are already covered in a full coat of black fur. They weigh about 100 g (3.5 oz) at birth. Their eyes open at 35 to 47 days, and they leave the den shortly thereafter. They begin to take solid food around 70 days of age and are fully weaned by 100 days. Hunting behavior begins as early as three months, and the mother initially brings her offspring wounded or slow prey to practice on as they improve their killing technique. The young are fully grown around 6 months old, and leave their mother to establish their own territory by 10 months.
The main threat to these animals is habitat destruction for agricultural purposes. Tayras also suffer from hunting and road-kills in many South American countries.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the tayra total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.