It is the only species in the genus Eira.
The tayra is found in Central and South America.
Their habitats are mainly tropical and subtropical forests. They may cross grasslands at night to move between forest patches, and they also inhabit cultivated plantations and croplands.
The elevation of the tayra’s habitat ranges from the lowlands to about 2400 meters (7,875 feet).
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.
The lifespan for the tayra is about 18 years in the wild and up to 22 years in captivity.
Tayras are long, slender animals with an appearance similar to that of weasels and martens.
They range from 56 to 71 cm (22 to 28 in) in length, not including a 37 to 46 cm (15 to 18 in) -long bushy tail, and weigh from 2.7 to 7 kg (6 to 15.5 lb). Males are larger, and slightly more muscular, than females.
The tayra’s dark skin is covered by brown or black fur that is commonly paler on the head and neck. The throat and chest are often marked with a light-coloured, triangular spot. Albino or yellowish individuals are also known, and are not as rare among tayras as they are among other mustelids.
Tayras are very skilled climbers and have been reported to climb down smooth tree trunks from heights of greater than 40 metres (130 feet).
They are diurnal animals, but occasionally active during the evening or at night.
Although classified as carnivores, tayras are omnivorous, with diets comparable to those of raccoons. Common foods include fruits, insects, and small vertebrates as well as eggs and carrion. The tayra occasionally eats honeycomb when it is available.
Tayras are solitary animals but they have been seen in pairs and even in small groups of three or four. In these groups Tayras have been heard giving yowls, snarls and clicking noises to one another.
Little is known about the tayra’s reproduction. It is thought, however, that gestation lasts for about 63-70 days with a litter size of 2-3 babies per season. Newborns open their eyes at about 35-58 days and they nurse for 2-3 months.
Hunting behaviour begins as early as three months, and the mother initially brings her young wounded or slow prey to practise on as they improve their killing technique. The young are fully grown around 6 months old, and leave their mother to establish their own territory by 10 months.
Wild tayra populations are slowly shrinking, especially in Mexico, due to habitat destruction for agricultural purposes.
The species is listed as being of least concern.
Tayra were once used by indigenous people of Central and South America as rodent control. They also can be tamed and often become pets.
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 also known as the tolomuco or perico ligero in Central America, motete in Honduras, irara in Brazil, san hol or viejo de monte in the Yucatan Peninsula, and high-woods dog (or historically chien bois) in Trinidad.
The genus name Eira is derived from the indigenous name of the animal in Bolivia and Peru, while barbara means “strange” or “foreign”.