April 1, 2019 | View PDF
The Tayra is a member of the weasel family (Mustelidae), which also includes otters, skunks and minks. It is the only species in the genus Eira. The Tayra, also spelled “Tiara”, is sometimes called “swamp or bush dog” and its Creole name is Haka.
Tayras can be found in the neo-tropical forests of Central and South America, and ranges from Mexico, south to Bolivia and northern Argentina and also on the island of Trinidad. In these areas they live in tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests, secondary growth, fields and plantations. The elevation of their habitat ranges from the lowlands to about 2000 to 2400 miles.
Because the Tayra is both terrestrial and arboreal, it has been found to live in hollow trees, burrows built by other animals and occasionally in tall grass. Despite their wide occurrence and relatively large size, surprisingly little is known about Tayra reproduction, life span, home ranges or habits.
This large, long-legged weasel like animal is the size of a medium sized dog with a long, bushy tail and long neck ending in a robust head. Tayra has a wrinkled face, which is the reason why it is also known as "Cabeza del Viejo" or "Old Man's Head" among the local people. Its head and body range from 24 to 28 inches in length and its bushy tail length 14 to 18 inches. Tayras have large hind feet, short ears. Color varies with geographic range, but in general the Tayra’s dark skin is covered by dense, short fur that is brown in color with a slightly paler head. The fur on its head changes to brown or gray as it ages. Usually it has a white, diamond shaped patch on its throat and chest. Tayras have long claws, pronounced canines and weigh 8 to 15 lbs.
They are a diurnal species that are sometimes active at dusk or before dawn. Tayras usually travel alone or in pairs, however, they are
occasionally seen in small groups of 3 to 4 individuals, the sexual distribution of which is unknown. In their forest habitats, Tayras often appear inquisitive, moving their heads in an undulating, snakelike fashion to determine scents or sights. They can be seen moving rapidly through the trees or on the ground. Both terrestrial and arboreal,
Tayras are very fast runners and despite their limited eyesight are skilled climbers as well. They have been reported to climb down smooth tree trunks from heights of greater than 130 feet. Terrestrial locomotion is usually composed of erratic, bouncing movements with the back arched and the tail along the ground. Arboreal movements along horizontal branches are more fluid, and the tail is used as a balancing rod. A Tayra may leap for considerable distances, run up rocky cliffs, and bound from branch to branch in the trees. It is usually silent, but when alarmed, the Tayra gives a short, barking call and may snort, growl, and spit while seeking protection in a nearby tree. They have been known to give yowls, snarls or clicks when in groups.
Although classified as carnivores, Tayras are omnivorous, with diets comparable to those of raccoons. It shows a preference for small mammals, the spiny rat in particular, but it will eat whatever is available, such as guinea pigs, mice, squirrels, agoutis and poultry. The Tayra will also eat significant amounts of fruit, invertebrates and reptiles. It has also been shown that they will occasionally eat honeycomb when it is available.
Tayra can survive up to 18 years in captivity. Lifespan in the wild is unknown. There are only 6 Tayras in the US that are known for exhibition if you want to meet one give us a call or email. We have a 5 year old Tayra named Mango.