Leopardus wiediimargay

Geographic Range

Leopardus wiedii is neotropical and sub-tropical. Margays may be found in forested regions from Northern Mexico to Uruguay and northern Argentina. (de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)


Margays inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. The majority of published observations were made in forested environments, although L. wiedii occasionally occupies more disturbed areas. (de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Physical Description

Margays are petite, spotted cats, resembling small, slender ocelots (Leopardus pardalis). Head and body length range from 463 to 790 mm, with tail length 331 to 510 mm. Weight 2.6 to 3.9 kg. Dark brown spots form longitudinal rows; fur otherwise tan (range: grayish to cinnamon) above, white ventrally. The pelage of these cats is soft and thick. (de Oliveira, 1998; Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range mass
    2.6 to 3.9 kg
    5.73 to 8.59 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    5.227 W


Most reproductive statistics come from captive animals; all aspects of behavior and physiology are virtually unstudied in the field (Azevedo, 1996; Mansard, 1997; Nowak, 1999). Females may breed in their first year. Estrous cycles are approximately 33 days, but may be shorter if mating does not occur. Gestation may last from 76 to 84 days, with a litter size of one, sometimes two. Young begin eating solid food after 8 weeks. (Azevedo, 1996; Mansard, 1997; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding season
    Margays may breed throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    81 days
  • Average gestation period
    81 days
  • Range weaning age
    52 (low) days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 (low) years



Margays are notable for their climbing prowess and arboriality. They are capable of hind-foot reversal, and may suspend themselves from their rear feet during descent like a squirrel. Active during day and night, Leopardus wiedii appears to be asocial, with temporary pair bonds formed during the breeding season. (Azevedo, 1996; de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Home range size 15 to 43 square km. (Azevedo, 1996; de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Margays eat a wide range of prey, including terrestrial and arboreal mammals, birds and their eggs, amphibians, reptiles, arthropods, and fruit. (de Oliveira, 1998; Nowak, 1999)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Margays were used commercially for their skins in the past. (de Oliveira, 1998)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • ecotourism

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Margays offer no adverse effects to humans, except perhaps for the occasional livestock deprivation, such as chickens.

Conservation Status

This species is rare and endangered throughout its range. In the past, thousands of individuals per year were harvested for their fur. Hunting pressure has decreased considerably following international protection, although some illegal harvesting still occurs locally. The virtually exclusive use of forested habitat may make L. wiedii more vulnerable than ocelots to the negative effects of habitat destruction and fragmentation. (de Oliveira, 1998; Nowell and Jackson, 1996)

Other Comments

Phylogeographic patterns of L. wiedii parallel those of its sister-species, Leopardis pardalis, known commonly as ocelots. Central American, northern South America, and southern South America populations represent three distinct margay lineages. (Eizirik, et al., 1998)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Alan Krakauer (author), University of California, Berkeley, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Azevedo, F. 1996. Notes on the behavior of the margay Felis wiedii (Schinz, 1821), (Carnivora, Felidae), in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Mammalia, 60: 325-328.

Eisenberg, J., K. Redford. 1999. Mammals of the Neotropics. Volume 3: the central Neotropics. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Eizirik, E., S. Bonatto, W. Johnson, P. Crawshaw, J. Vié. 1998. Phylogeographic patterns and evolution of the mitochondrial DNA control region in two neotropical cats (Mammalia, Felidae). Journal of Molecular Evolution, 47: 613-624.

IUCN, 1996. "Cat Specialist Group: Species Accounts: Margay ( Leopardus wiedii )" (On-line). Accessed November 27, 2001 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.

Mansard, P. 1997. Breeding and husbandry of the Margay Leopardus wiedii yucatanica at the Ridgeway Trust for Endangered Cats, Hastings. International Zoo Yearbook, 35: 94-100.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, MD: John's Hopkins University Press.

Nowell, K., P. Jackson. 1996. Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

de Oliveira, T. 1998. Leopardus wiedii. Mammalian Species, 579: 1-6.