Video: Meet the tayra

Back in high school, I spent a lot of time tromping around in the woods in New Hampshire. In the winter, I’d sometimes go out tracking for hours, and my favorite animals to track were always mustelids. I think it’s a tie between mink and fisher. Mink were fun because in addition to the challenge of tracking something that’s as comfortable swimming as it is walking, when they came to big hills, they’d slide down them on their bellies. Sometimes they’d run back up the hill and do it again, or if there was a gully, they’d move down it by running up one side, then sliding down it, and running up the other side, zig-zagging back and forth. Fisher didn’t slide so much, but they also tended not to stick so close to streams, and they were more likely to lead me to other animals. Follow a fisher for long enough, and the odds were good I’d find something else. They also had their own way to play in the snow. If it was deep enough, they’d run up a tree, and jump off, leaving a perfect spread-eagle hole in the snow. It always looked like something out of a cartoon.

I tend to think of the Tayra as the South American version of the fisher. I don’t know how closely they’re related, beyond sharing the same family, but it seems like they occupy a similar niche in their respective habitats.


  1. StevoR says

    Fisher = ??? I take it that’s referring to an otter type critter from the context?

  2. says

    Martes pennanti. I’m taking it easy this weekend, so maybe I’ll find a video about them for today 😛

    They’re just a bit smaller than tayras and less omnivorous.

  3. M. Currie says

    Long ago I met a man who, as an adolescent in New York (where else?) had had a pet tayra. He would take it for walks on a leash in Central Park. One day, so the story goes, he was walking his critter when an unrestrained German shepherd harassed it. The tayra escaped his leash, and with blinding speed killed the dog with a bite to the throat. He said he managed to drag the dog into the bushes before the owner showed up. Almost needless to say, for those familiar with the short stories of Saki, his critter was named Sredni.

    For those unfamiliar with it, the Fisher is another mustelid which was pretty rare here in the northeast, but has been re-established to some degree, not so rare now but still unlikely to be seen. Once nearly extinct, it was re-introduced in the 1960’s, in part to control the porcupine population. Fishers (locally AKA “fisher cats”) don’t actually care much for fish, but do have the distinction of being the only real predator of porcupines, possessing a skill at turning them over and dispatching them without getting a face full of quills.

    I’m no big fan of porcupines, which tend to eat all the wrong things, like barn walls. I had them up in Northern NY years ago, and they nibbled not only on the back wall of my garage, but on the rails of a new wheelbarrow, the undercoating of my car, and on my bicycle tires! Back then, I must confess, I lacked the means to transport them, and subjected a couple to “high speed lead poisoning.” Now I’m softer of heart and have a big Havahart trap, and when they annually decide that my barn is just the right kind of snack. they get a free ride down the road.

  4. says

    Doing another animal vid like this feels a little too lazy, even for a day off, so here’s one for folks who want visuals to add to M. Currie’s description.

  5. says

    @ M. Currie – yeah, keeping wild carnivores as pets is sketchy even if you’re doing it right, but having them mingle with dogs seems like a very bad idea. He shoulda had more respect for the story he named it after 😛

  6. says

    Saw a tayra in Tambopata province in Peru this summer. It was working its way around a clearing around an “ecotourism” lodge in the rain forest. Its gait is more dog-like than a fisher’s — more trotting and less 2-2-2 bouncing. Completely unfazed by humans at 20 meters.

  7. M. Currie says

    Noting the other videos at the end of that one above, and speaking of very wild animals, I recall long ago camping in the Banff area of the Rockies. We stayed at a provincial park and were worried about bears. When the ranger came around to check on things, we asked, and he said not to worry. Somewhere up a nearby mountain, within a five mile radius or so was a wolverine. And that was that. No bears here!

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