Grisons

Like the tayra, few are aware of the rare grison species. Even fewer realize they are mustelids.

Grisons first appeared in South America during the early Pleistocene about 2.5 million years ago. They may be descended from the fossil genera Trigonictis and Sminthosinus, which lived in North America during the mid to late Pliocene. There are at least three known fossil species, all of which were found in Argentina. Despite rarely being seen, the grison population is doing fairly well.

(1) Greater Grison (Galictis vittata)

Photo by Tony Hisgett

The greater grison is a slender animal with short legs, a long neck, and a short, bushy tail. They have a range from the coast of eastern Mexico, to as far south as the northern half of South America. At times they are raised in captivity and trained to hunt smaller animals for farmers. 

Greater grisons will hunt alone or in pairs, and feed on birds, small mammals, and fruits and vegetables. They are most active during the day, and spend their nights in vacated burrows of other animals. Despite being a terrestrial animal, the greater grison is both an excellent climber of trees and swimmer; the latter being assisted by their webbed toes.

Size: 45-60 cm / 18-24 in (males), 50 cm / 20 in (females)
Weight: 1.5-3.8 kg / 3.3-8.4 lb (males), 1.8 kg / 4 lb (females)
Range: The coast of eastern Mexico, northern half of South America.
Conservation Status: Least Concern

(2) Lesser Grison (Galictis cuja)

Photo by Ken Erickson

Lesser grisons look similar to the greater grison, only smaller. Females are slighter smaller and more slender than males. Lesser grisons are usually found near water and live in rocks, under tree roots or abandoned burrows. Their diet consists of small mammals, amphibians, small reptiles, eggs and fruit. Similar to the greater grison, they can be kept as pets if raised from infancy; at times for the purpose of hunting pests. 

Lesser grisons can form monogamous mating pairs – hunting together while raising their young.

Size: 27-52 cm / 11-20 in (males),
Weight: 1.2-2.4 kg / 2.6-5.3 lb (males),
Range: Central South America – from northern Patagonia to Brazil and Bolivia.
Conservation Status: Least Concern


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