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Tayra
Eira barbara

The tayra is a weasel about the size of a medium sized dog, with a long, bushy tail and long neck. Its head is quite large in relation to its body and its ears are small and round. The tayra has large canine teeth that it uses to eat a variety of small animals. It has large hind feet with long claws. The color of its fur varies with geographic range, but in general the tayra has a dark brown body with short, dense fur, and a slightly paler head. On average the tayra weighs about ten pounds.

Tayras are found in tropical areas and evergreen forests. The elevation of the tayras habitat ranges from the lowlands to about 8000 feet. Because the tayra is both terrestrial and arboreal, it has been found living in hollow trees, burrows built by other animals, and occasionally in tall grass.

Tayras are omnivores, meaning that they eat both meat and plant food. They are large tree climbers that will often descend to search the ground for a variety of foods- fruit, insects, bird eggs, lizards, guinea pigs, squirrels, agoutis, chicken, rabbits, rats, and insects. They can be quite bold at times and are among the most frequently sighted of the weasel family, especially when attracted to fruits. Because of their love of eating small rodents, people often keep tayras as pets to keep the rodents out of their gardens.

The tayra usually travels alone or in pairs. Sometimes, however, they are seen in small groups of 3-4 individuals. It is active both day and night, and rarely rests. The tayra is both terrestrial and arboreal. It may leap for considerable distances, run up rocky cliffs, and bound from branch to branch in the trees. It climbs gracefully up and down trees, and hides in hollows in branches or in the underground burrows of other animals which it has killed. When alarmed, the tayra gives a short, barking call and seeks protection in the nearest tree. Although usually silent, the tayra has been known to give yowls, snarls, or clicks when in groups.

 



Little is known about the tayra's reproduction. It is thought, however, that gestation lasts for about 63-70 days with a litter size of 2-3 babies per season, Newborns open their eyes after about fifty days and they nurse for 2-3 months. Because of the close proximity of the tayra's habitat to that of humans, specifically human farmers, tayras have been known to cause some damage to neighboring plantations. The tayra occasionally eats poultry and raids corn and sugar fields, but damage is usually minimal.

The tayra is not endangered in most of its range; in some parts of South America it is the most common carnivore due to its ability to live near humans in disturbed habitats. However, in some areas, human spread of agriculture, loss of tropical habitat, and hunting have greatly reduced populations.

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