Jaguarundi Learns to Hunt, Part Two!

23 05 2010

Jaguarundi learns to hunt in the aviary

So we called around to the big cat rescues we have been in touch with and asked about how we could improve the baby jaguarundi’s hunting skills. She is living with two house kittens right now and we’ve been trying to catch mice everyday to throw in their cage. The problem is that the kittens are a bit older and a bit more advanced than the jaguarundi and so they catch the mice but, when we put three mice in the jaguarundi kitten tries but usually her mouse escapes through the wire of the cage. She isn’t fast enough and sometimes we only catch two mice in a night so we put them in and only the kittens get the mice. So the new idea… let the jaguarundi out to catch mice.

The mouse population in the aviary is out of control. Every time I go in there I see mice everywhere, stealing the birdseed and the bananas we leave out for the birds. We try to put the food in places that mice would have trouble getting to but they are smart mice. So it seemed to be the perfect place to let the jaguarundi loose to learn to hunt.

We tried it yesterday morning and this morning. We let the jaguarundi out by himself at first but he just sniffed the ground and the rocks and walked very slowly and cautiously. So we put the two kittens in there with him. They didn’t exactly get mice but they learned to stalk and pounce… each other.

Jaguar cub and Kitten Stalk each other

Stalking each other in the aviary

We tried it again this morning, first the white cat by herself. She seems to be the best hunter (we named her Artemis after the greek goddess of the hunt) so we thought that if she caught a mouse she could then show the others how. She chased the mice and caught two. Each time she ran around for a bit with them in her mouth, apparently looking for a good place to set it down. Each time she set it down in a corner, batted it around a bit, picked it up again, set it down and then it escaped. So we brought the other kitten (we named her Hestia in honor of the goddess of the hearth, also Artemis’s buddy, or so it is said) and the jaguarundi (Athena, goddess of war, buddy of Hestia and Artemis) and set them loose. They seemed to have no interest in controlling the burgeoning mouse population.  Instead the pounced on each other, again and again and again. So no mice caught but maybe its good practice.


Jaguarundi Kitten Learns to Hunt

22 05 2010
The Most Adorable Kitten Ever

A baby jaguarundi cub in her kennel, her new home in Boquete

About a month ago Paradise Gardens received a baby jaguarundi. He had been found by a farmer in a field. The cub’s den had been run over by a tractor and it appeared that the mother had escaped with the other cubs (there are one to four cubs in a litter) but had been unable to carry them all and left this one behind. The farmer waited, watching the baby to see if the mother might return and protecting the baby from other possible predators in the interim. The mother never returned, and the farmer collected the cub and brought him to us to care for.

He arrived so tiny he had to be bottle fed. We had to make a decision quickly though: was he going to be released or would he be staying with us at Paradise Gardens for the rest of his life? Obviously it would be best for him and us if he could be released. He had arrived to us very young and with very little human contact, no injuries and no sickness. He could be released.

For a successful release we must minimize his contact with humans. Big cats are tricky because if he will stay his human contact must be maximized but for a cat in the wild to be comfortable with humans is a death sentence. Jaguarundis are smallish versions of the well-known big cats, slightly smaller than an ocelot. Yet they are still considered a danger to humans.If a cat is released after having too much human contact he or she will approach humans for attention (think of a cat purring and weaving around your legs… now imagine a big, wild cat doing that) or food and probably be killed or injured. Cats that have to remain here and will never be released, on the other hand, have to have loads of human attention and interaction. Lottie, the margay (looks similar to an ocelot), arrived as a three-month old who had spent her whole life, after being taken from her mother, in a human home. She had been kept in a two-foot by four-foot box, not nearly big enough for her body, and without the proper space her tail had grown kinked. Because she had no muscle tone she was unable to walk on her own. These three factors led Paradise Gardens to decide that she would never be able to be released. Living in such close quarters to humans she had grown accustomed to them. With a kinked tail she would never be able to hunt properly. And she needed a lot of human contact in order to heal her atrophied muscles.

In the case of the jaguarundi, it is impossible to completely cut out human contact. He had to be bottle fed at first and even now putting food into his cage involves brief human contact. However humans do not play with him, talk to him or touch him. He is unavailable for visitors to view. But he has to learn to hunt. And jaguarundis are raised by their parents with their siblings, although they are generally solitary for the rest of their lives. So we gave him some siblings: two house kittens! They have all been eating raw meat and are learning to catch chicks and mice. The kittens trump the jaguarundi at catching the mice but they are cautious of the chicks while the jaguarundi pounces as soon as he notices them.

As for the margay who lives here, she does hunt some. Every now and then a fish from the stream that runs through her enclosure is a nice snack and sometimes even the pigeons that get in are devoured. So maybe not a good enough hunter to be released into the wild but she does better than my house cat.