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Guatemala’s Land Mammals

Guatemala’s list of native land mammals is impressive, with a large variety of exotic cats, primates, and other furry creatures. The largest of Guatemala’s cats is the jaguar (Panthera onca), found in lowland parts of Petén, Izabal, and the Verapaces. Referred to as tigre by locals, it is known to sometimes wander into chiclero camps as well as kill livestock in cattle ranches that have encroached on remote areas. Sightings of this beautiful spotted cat are rare, so consider yourself lucky if you are able to glimpse one in the wild. Its tracks are more likely to be seen on travels to the remote forests of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, which can be exciting enough. Other cats include the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), puma (Puma concolor), and their smaller relatives the margay (Leopardus wiedii) and ocelot (Leopardus pardalis).

Among the most widely seen mammals are monkeys. You are likely to hear the roar of howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) during the early morning hours if camping overnight in Petén. Less aggressive, smaller, and ever more playful, are spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi).

A spider monkey relaxing in Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel. Photo © Al Argueta.
A spider monkey relaxing in Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel. Photo © Al Argueta.

The gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) can often be seen in the early morning and evening among Tikal’s temples. More exotic forest dwellers include the piglike collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu) and white-lipped peccary (Tayasu pecari) as well as the hefty Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), and the tamandua anteater (Tamandua mexicana).

Also easy to spot are some of the smaller mammals, particularly in parks such as Tikal and Yaxhá. Among these are the raccoonlike white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), which practically walk up to you at Tikal; mouselike agoutis (Dasyprocta punctata); and kinkajous (Potos flavus).

A coati in Tikal National Park. Photo © Stefan Ember/123rf.
A coati in Tikal National Park. Photo © Stefan Ember/123rf.

If you happen to like bats, you’ll be pleased to know Guatemala harbors more than 100 species of the flying critters. Many of these are found in the limestone caves of Petén and the Verapaces. Most of these are harmless to humans, feeding on fruits and insects. There are blood-sucking vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) flying about, though these feed mostly on cattle.


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