Tayra (Bush Dog)

Eira barbara

The Tayra is included in the weasel family, along with otters, skunks and many other species.  The Tayra, is also called the Bush Dog or Haka and is the only species in the genus Eira. Tayras can be found in both Central and South American neo-tropical forests and can range from inland of Northern Argentina to Mexico.

The Tayra's body length including the tail can range from 900-1150 mm (about the size of a medium-sized dog), with large hind feet, short round ears and a long bushy tail. The coloration of the Tayra can vary with location but typically they have dark skin color covered with short, dense brown colored fur, which can lighten near the head. The lighter fur close to the Tayra's head will grey as they age and usually has a white, diamond shaped patch on its throat and chest.  Tayras have long claws for climbing trees and pronounced canine teeth and can weigh up to 5 kg.

In Central and South America, Tayras live in tropical, deciduous and evergreen forests, secondary growth, fields and plantations. They live in the lowlands up to between 2000-2400 meters in elevation. They have been found living in hollow trees, burrows made by other animals and  tall grass. They are diurnal species and  sometimes active at twilight. A solitary mammal but they have been seen  in pairs and  even in small groups of three or four but the sexual distribution of these groups is unknown. In these groups Tayras have been heard giving yowls, snarls and clicking noises to one another. Tayras can move almost fluid like among the trees, leaping considerable distances and climbing down smooth trunks of 40 meters. Expert climbers of trees and rock cliffs, using their tall as a balancing rod, they tend to look comical on the ground with their arched backs and somewhat hopping matter of traversing the forest floor.

Tayras are omnivores, although they are classified as carnivores, they have a diet comparable to the raccoons. A favorite food is the spiny rat but the will eat anything that is available, including squirrels, guinea pigs, poultry, fruit invertebrates and reptiles. The Tayra only predators are dogs and man but are also threatened by loss of habitat.

There is little know about the Tayra's reproduction. Even so, it is assumed that gestation lasts 63-70 days with a litter of 2-3 babies weighting around 80 grams per season. It is unsure of the Tayra has a mating cycle with births in March and July or if it is a non-seasonal breeder with monthly mating periods. The Tayra has a relatively long lifespan of 18-22 years in captivity, lifespan in nature is unknown.

Tayra were once used by indigenous people of Central and South America as rodent control. They also can be tamed and often become pets. The Tayra has also been a nuisance, with the eating of poultry and corn  raids but this is minimal.

Recent research has shown the Tayras, much like how humans buy unripe bananas to let ripen at home, Tayras pick unripe plantains and hide them from other animals until they are ready to eat!  Tayras are very successful in this adaptation and this has spurred the idea of forethought in the Tayra, like other non human primates and some birds. Does this mean the Tayra can think ahead and plan for the future? More research is needed to answer the previous question, did the Tayra just learn that it could leave food and come back for it later when it ripened or actually think about what it would eat tomorrow.

Please note that the following references may have either been removed or relocated by the webpage owners since the time this student report was created.

"Animal Diversity Web." ADW: Eira Barbara: INFORMATION. | ©2011 TheWebsiteOfEverything.com, n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.

"Do Tayras Plan for the Future?" - ScienceNOW. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.

Schreffler, C. 2003. "Eira barbara" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 23, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Eira_barbara/

"Tayra - Animal Facts." Tayra - Animal Facts. Copyright © 2012 Tubehead Inc. and Its Licensors. All Rights Reserved., n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.

"Tayras, Belize Animals, Caribbean Critters." Tayras, Belize Animals, Caribbean Critters. Copyright by Casado Internet Group, Belize, n.d. Web. 23 May 2013.

More Information

Please note that the following links may have either been removed or relocated by the webpage owners since the time this student report was created.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Eira_barbara/

http://switchzoo.com/profiles/tayra.htm

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2011/08/do-tayras-plan-for-the-future.html