This unusual species is found from central Mexico to northern Argentina. It lives in thick forests, from lowland regions to about 2,400 m (7,900 ft) above sea level. A few tayras are known to live in areas of tall grass.
When fully grown, this large weasel is as big as a mediumsized dog. The short coat varies from grey to black, and the tail is bushy and long. The tayra has a long, robust body, and large hind feet with long claws.
Tayras forage for food on the ground and also in the trees, where their long tail helps them to balance as they move through the branches. As well as being nimble climbers and agile on the ground, these weasels can also swim well. Tayras are mainly active during the day. They make their nests in cored trees or logs, grassy thickets, or in the burrows of other animals. Most tayras live alone or in pairs. Sometimes they form small groups of up to four individuals. Members of the group may work together to prey on animals such as large rodents and small deer. When they are being chased by predators, tayras will evade capture by running up trees and leaping from branch to branch.
Tayras can be tamed, and they are sometimes kept as pets. Indigenous people once used them to control rodents pests in homes.
Distribution: From C. Mexico to Bolivia and Argentina.
Habitat: Tropical deciduous and forests.
Food: Mainly rodents, but also rabbits, small deer, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, honey and fruits.
Size: 100 cm (40 in); 4 - 5 kg (8.75 - 11 lb).
Maturity 2 years.
Breeding: 3 kits born between March and July; however, some authorities claim that breeding is non-seasonal.
Life span: Unknown.
Status: Lower risk.