Nosara Wild Cats
Guanacaste is home to six species of wild cats, all of which live in remote, mountainous, forested areas. That said, they do exist here, and if you are one of the very, very, very, lucky ones, you may just have a brush with one of them, particularly one of the smaller species.
The following wild cats, all of which are known to inhabit the surrounding area, are listed in order of which you are least likely to encounter.
One of the largest land based carnivores in Central America is the jaguar (Panthera Onca, or Tigre). It measures over 2 meters and weighs up to 90kg. This is the cat which has become synonymous with Costa Rican and Central American tourism, as evidenced by the volume of advertisements which feature its image. Unfortunately, this incredible creature has become exceedingly rare both in Costa Rica and the Central and South American continent. One of their biggest threats is poachers, who can make big bucks selling their teeth and skins to the Chinese traditional medicine market. Additionally, jaguars need large territories for hunting, and have been victim to serious human encroachment and subsequent habitat loss in recent decades.
Older inhabitants of Nosara may talk of past encounters with these creatures in the local area. And, from time to time reports emerge of someone coming across a jaguar in the mountains and remote foothills of the surrounding area. However, the vast majority of the few remaining Costa Rican jaguars have mostly fled to remote areas like the Santa Rosa National Park, the Talamanca mountains and Corcovado National Park. Reports of jaguars attacking humans are unheard of, particularly in recent history. Like all wild cats they are extremely shy and do their best to avoid encounters with humans. Their favorite prey is monkeys, peccaries, deer, agoutis, and birds or fish.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 0.01 / 10
Once thought to be a completely separate species, it’s now known that the black panther is in fact a jaguar, and differentiated only by the strong, dark pigmentation of its fur. Basically, if the parenting matches, a female jaguars litter may include a black panther. Regular jaguar fur is usually a warm gold tone with large, distinctive black rosettes all over the body. Closer examination of these black cat variants reveals that the typical markings are still present, but are hidden by a huge excess of black pigment melanin. This is called “ghost striping”. As with their striped siblings, reports of these creatures seen stalking the remote undergrowth in and around Nosara are anecdotal.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 0.02 / 10
In regard to Costa Rican wild cats the puma (cougar), or mountain lion, ranks second in size only to the jaguar. Some can grow almost as large as jaguars, but they are less stocky and not as powerfully built. Interestingly, pumas can’t roar, only growl. Nevertheless, they are skilled, agile, and powerful hunters. Their coat is an unspotted gray brown to red color. This elusive and scarcely seen cat is a solitary and mostly nocturnal hunter. Although they mainly feed on deer, they also eat rodents, small reptiles and birds. The largest population of pumas in Costa Rica live in the Santa Rosa and Guanacaste National Parks. The puma is a panamerican species, with the largest range of any wild animal on the American continent, stretching from the Alaska to the Southern Andes.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 0.06 / 10
A little larger, and quite a bit stockier than the average house cat, the margay is most easily distinguished by large, glassy blue eyes, adapted specifically to hunt and roam in the dark. These guys are master climbers, spend the majority of their lives in the trees, and are equipped with an ankle joint that allows it to rotate its foot 180 degrees. It’s fast, agile, and can move around the forest canopy as easily and skillfully as any howler monkey. You may see one of these guys in the treetops at night, but good luck.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 0.2 / 10 Chances are increased if you know where and when to look.
Imagine a margay, but bigger. From head to tail, the ocelot stretches up to one meter, making it the largest of the small wild cats. This highly territorial cat hangs out in primary and secondary forests, lives on the ground, and is mostly nocturnal, particularly when hunting. They have a short tail, a grey coat, heavily spotted with beige blotches and black rings and a very distinctive white spot on either ear. Ocelots are carnivorous, and have a diet that consists of reptiles, birds, infant monkeys, rats, and other small mammals. Yes, Ocelots live in and around Nosara, and yes, it’s possible that you may spot one, but don’t get your hopes up.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 0.5 / 10. Occasionally, reports come in that these guys have been spotted on the Las Huacas road and in around the fields of Esperanza. Like the margay, the chances of encountering one are increased if you know where and when to look
The jaguarundi (León Breñero) has a long tail, dark fur, a long, powerful, sleek body, short legs and a large menacing head that looks like a house cat mated with a weasel. It hunts day and night and is also a prolific swimmer. Out of all the Costa Rican wild cat, the Jaguarundi is the one best adapted to human changes to its habitat. Jaguarundis are often blamed for hunting chickens and small pets but in many cases the real culprit is a tayra (tolomuco). Although this member of the weasel family closely resembles the jaguarundi, it is a completely different species.
Chances of seeing one in the wild: 1 / 10 As a tourist, you’d be lucky to randomly encounter one of these guys. However, locals, and those who have been here for some time will likely run into one eventually.