Mammals of Peru | Peru Unbound

In Peru, the geography is so diverse, spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Rainforest. Animals have adapted to the wide range of different altitudes and climates in order to survive in this environment. Home to more than 500 species of mammals, Peru has 70 endemic and close to 100 threatened, vulnerable or endangered species. Scope the many landscapes of Peru with the whole family in seach of its vast wildlife on our Peru Family Magic Tour.



Sloth’s are related to the anteater. They are known for their slow and lazy behavior, however, their bodies are really just conserving energy. Sloths can use surprising speed during emergency flights from predators. They have strong bodies and they host symbiotic algae on their furs. They make good habitats for other organisms too like moths, beetles and cockroaches.

The sloth’s diet consists of buds, tender shoots, and leaves. Some two-toed sloths have been documented eating insects and small reptiles and birds to supplement their diet. Sloth’s have large, specialized, slow-acting stomachs with several compartments where symbiotic bacteria break down tough leaves. Two thirds of a well-fed sloth’s body weight consists of the contents of its stomach. The digestive process can take a month or more to complete.

Sloths have short, flat heads, big eyes, short snouts, long legs, and tiny ears. Some species have stubby tails.

Sloths’ claws serve as their only natural defense. A cornered sloth may swipe at its attacker. But predators don’t really pose much of a problem. Sloths blend in with the trees and move so slowly as not to attract attention. They only become vulnerable on the ground.

Sloths have long, curved claws that allow them to hang upside down from branches without effort. They eat, sleep, and even give birth hanging upside down from limbs. A female sloth will give birth once a year or so. Infant sloths cling to their mothers’ fur, but occasionally fall off. Sloths are very sturdily built and rarely die from a fall. In some cases they may die indirectly from a fall because the mothers prove unwilling to leave the safety of the trees to retrieve the young.



The ocelot is a solitary wild cat also known as the dwarf leopard. It is similar in size to a large domestic cat and its fur resembles a leopard or jaguar. It can weigh up to 35 lbs and measures in length from 22-39 inches.

In 1929 Ernest Thompson Seton, a wildlife author, described the coat of the ocelot as “the most wonderful tangle of stripes, bars, chains, spots, dots and smudges…which look as though they were put on as the animal ran by.”

The ocelot is active around twilight and at night which makes it difficult to observe. Sometimes on cloudy or rainy days it can be seen hunting during the daytime. Hunting is its major activity. When it rests it can be found on limbs or in the hollow of trees or under logs. Ocelots are also known to be efficient swimmers.

The ocelot is a solitary creature. A carnivore, it preys on small mammals like armadillos, opossums, rabbits, rodents, small birds, fish, insects and reptiles. An ocelot appears to have two hunting strategies. It will wait in the same spot for 30-60 minutes and then move to another spot if nothing appears. Or it will travel at a casual speed looking for prey.

Ocelots mate any time of the year. A female will give birth to a litter of 1-3 kittens. Kittens leave the den at three months but stay with their mother for up to two years. An ocelot can live up to 20 years in captivity.




The puma is a large, graceful cat known by many names, including cougar, panther and mountain lion. They are a solitary cat that can measure 8 feet in length from nose to tail and weigh up to 160 lbs. Pumas have a plain colored coat of fur ranging from tawny to silver grey or reddish brown. There are five retractable claws on their forepaws plus one dew claw, and four claws on the back paws. Their acute hearing and excellent vision make them formidable hunters.

The puma prefers dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking. It can also live in open plains, coniferous and tropical forests, and swamps and deserts.

As a carnivorous stalker, the puma ambushes its prey and pursues a wide variety of animals for its diet. Its main diet consists of deer, horses, elk, cattle, and sheep. The puma will eat any animal it can catch, even something as large as a moose. It stalks its prey through bushes and trees and across rock ledges before powerfully leaping onto the back of its victim and delivering a suffocating bite to the neck. Sometimes, if the prey is large enough, the puma will cover it with a bush and return to feed over a period of days. It will also subsidize its diet with large insects and small rodents.

The puma is territorial. You only see multiples together when it’s a female with her cub.

The puma is a vocal cat known for its hisses, growls, purrs and screams. It can jump up to 18 feet. It has powerful bursts of speed, getting up to 35 miles per hour. The puma is also a good climber and is capable of swimming.

A female puma will have a litter of cubs every 2-3 years. A litter can be anywhere from 1-6 cubs. When cubs are born they are spotted with blue eyes and rings on their tails.




The jaguar most closely resembles the leopard physically, although it’s larger and behaves more like a tiger. The jaguar prefers dense rainforest, but will range across a variety of forested and open terrains.

The jaguar enjoys swimming. It’s largely associate with areas with lots of water. It’s a solitary animal. Like the puma, it’s an opportunistic, stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain. It has an exceptionally powerful bite, piercing the shells of armored reptiles and biting through the skull of its prey to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.

The jaguar is a near threatened species with declining numbers.

The largest male jaguar recorded weighed 348 lbs. The length of a male from nose to the base of the tail varies from 3.7 to 6.1 ft. With this short and stocky limb structure, the jaguar is powerful and adept at climbing, crawling, and swimming.

The coat of a jaguar closely resembles that of a leopard. But the jaguar is sturdier and heavier than the leopard. The two animals can be distinguished by their rosettes as well. The rosettes on a jaguar’s coat are larger, fewer in number, usually darker, and have thicker lines and small spots in the middle that the leopard lacks. Color morphism can occur regularly in the species where the jaguar’s coat appears entirely black, although their spots are still visible on close examination.

Female jaguars provide all the parenting. Females give birth to up to four cubs, though most commonly two. The female does not tolerate the presence of males when she has cubs due to the risk of infanticide.

Cubs continue in their mother’s care for one to two years and then set off on their own. A typical lifespan is about 12-15 years.

The jaguar is a carnivore and only eats meat. At the top of the food chain, it can take virtually any terrestrial or riparian vertebrate found in Central or South America. It doesn’t chase its prey down, but rather stalks and attacks from its blind spot with a quick pounce.

Andean Bear


The Andean bear is also known as the spectacled bear because of the markings of white or light fur around its eyes which can look like eyeglasses against the rest of the bear’s black or dark brown fur. Sometimes these markings can extend down the chest, giving each bear a unique appearance. This makes them easy to distinguish from bear to bear for research purposes.

The Andean bear is a mid-sized species of bear. They measure between 4-6 ft long and the males can weigh 220-440 lbs. Males are between 30-50% larger than females.

These bears are shy and tend to avoid humans, so very little is actually known about them. They live in forests, grasslands, and scrublands. The Andean bear uses its long, sharp front claws to climb and forage for food. Because of the tropical climate they live in, they do not hibernate, but are active year-round.

Andean bears are mainly plant eaters, dining of fruit, bromeliads, and palms. Those living in the scrubland habitat have been known to eat cacti. These bears are goo swimmers though they don’t usually eat fish. They will eat a small percentage of rodents and insects.

Andean bears are solitary creatures, but may gather together where food is plentiful.

Female Andean bears give birth to one to three cubs at a time. Newborns don’t open their eyes until they are about 42 days old. Cubs first leave the den when they are about three months old. They ride on their mother’s back or she can carry a cub by clutching it to her chest with one front paw as she runs on three legs or her two hind legs.

Andean Fox


The Andean fox or culpeo, is the second largest canid on the continent after the maned wolf. Its size is between a red fox and a coyote with males weighing up to 25 lbs and females averaging 19 lbs. It has grey and reddish fur, a white chin, reddish legs, and a stripe on its back. The bushy tail has a black tip.

The Andean fox is an opportunistic hunter that will take any variety of prey. It mostly eats rodents, rabbits, birds and lizards and will eat plant material and carrion if needed. It’s been known to attack sheep on occasion, and is therefore often hunted or poisoned.

The typical mating period is between August and October. The female gives birth usually to 2-5 pups among the rocks.

Maned Wolf


The maned wolf is the largest canid of South America. Its markings resemble a fox, but it’s not a fox or a wolf. It’s the only species in the genus Chrysocyon.

The average adult weighs 51 lbs. Its ears are large and long. Fur of the maned wolf may be reddish brown to golden orange with black legs and a distinctive black mane.

The maned wolf does not form packs. It hunts alone, usually between sundown and midnight. Maned wolves rotate their large ears to listen for prey animals in the grass. They tap the ground with a front foot to flush out the prey and pounce to catch it. Monogamous pairs may defend a shared territory, but outside of mating, individuals seldom meet. They prefer grasslands, scrub prairies and forests.

The maned wolf uses its urine to mark hunting paths or places where they’ve buried their hunted prey. Some people liken the odor of the urine to hops or cannabis.

Mating season ranges from November to April. A litter may have anywhere from 2-6 pups covered with black fur. Pups are fully grown at one year old.

The maned wolf preys on small and medium-sized animals. But a large portion of its diet is vegetable matter, making this creature omnivorous.

Bush Dog


The bush dog species is listed as near threatened. They are a rare species to see. The bush dog’s fur is black when it’s younger and as it matures its fur lightens to a soft brownish-tan color. They weigh between 11-18 lbs. They have short legs relative to their body, as well as a short snout and small ears. The bush dog has 38 teeth which are adapted for its carnivorous habits. They also have partially webbed toes which allow them to swim more efficiently.

Bush dogs hunt during the day. They prey on large rodents. They can hunt alone, but are usually found in small packs. Together, a pack can bring down much larger prey. When hunting paca, part of the pack chases it on land and part wait for it in the water where it often retreats.

They use hollow logs and cavities such as armadillo burrows for shelter. Packs consist of a single mated pair and their immediate kin. A litter of pups is normally 3-6 large, though large litters up to ten have been reported. They live for up to ten years in captivity.


Red Howler Monkey


Peru has a wide variety of species of monkey. The red howler monkey is one of the more well-known species of monkey in the Amazon. The red howlers get their name from the brick red color of their coat and the deep resonant pitch that they make when vocalizing. They travel most frequently on tree branches, but they will walk on land if needed, often in groups if they are crossing and open area like a savannah.

Red howlers are mostly herbivores. They prefer medium or large fruit with juicy pulp that are bright in color. They will supplement their diet with roots, flowers, seeds, berries, leaf buds, and other plant material. They do not need to drink water, likely because the material they eat has enough water content to sustain them. This allows them to live in areas away from natural water. They have been known to eat soil at natural saltlicks and to eat termite nest material every two or three days.

The white-tailed deer will form feeding associations with red howlers. The deer linger below on the ground to collect otherwise inaccessible foods accidentally dropped to the forest floor by the monkeys.

Red howlers that dwell in forest edge habitats and open forests are particularly vulnerable to raptors. Harpy Eagles have been observed attacking, killing, and consuming adult howlers.



Spider Monkey


Spider Monkeys feed on fruits, berries, soft leaves, insects, and honey. They live in large territorial groups. The groups split during the day to feed and then meet back in the evenings sounding out greeting calls. They live in the western Amazon Rainforest.

Titi Monkey


Titi monkeys have a robust body with short limbs and a hairy non-prehensile tail. Titis feed off grubs, leaves, seeds and fruit. They seem to prefer trees near bodies of water and they form pair bonds.


Tamarin Monkey


The tamarin monkey feeds on birds, invertebrates, soft fruit, and plant exudates. Tamarins are diverse in appearance. They form troops in number anywhere from 2 to 11 members with frequent migrations. They live in tropical forest areas in Central and South America.

Squirrel Monkey


The squirrel monkey lives in the forests of South America. It feeds off fruit and invertebrates. It has diverse calls which are specific to alarm, courtship, dominance, and pain. Around 26 different calls have been recorded. The best time to see these monkeys is early in the morning. Sometimes they approach visitors out of curiosity and even throw small items onto onlookers. They generally form larger groups anywhere from 120-300 or even more individuals.

Night Monkey


Night Monkeys are also known as owl monkeys. They are often see while night spotting for nocturnal Amazon wildlife. Night monkeys form pair bonds and you will usually see two or more heads poking out from tree holes in the forest. They form close family groups of 4 or 5 family members.

Capuchin Monkey


Capuchin monkeys eat leaves, fruit, insects, and other small animals. Capuchins are also known to use stones to crack open shelled prey like crabs. They live in troops of around 10-40 members in South American forest and are more able to adapt to habitat change than most other monkeys.

The Giant Anteater


The giant anteater can grow to be over 7 ft in total body length. It has a tubular snout which ends in a tiny mouth opening and nostrils. It has small ears and eyes which make for poor eyesight and hearing, but its sense of smell is 40 times more sensitive than that of humans.

The giant anteater has no teeth and very limited jaw movement. It flicks it slender tongue out to eat its prey. It’s an insectivore, feeding mostly on ant or termites. The tongue is coated in a thick, sticky saliva which allows the anteater to collect insects with it. During feeding the tongue moves in and out about 3 times per second.

Anteaters are mostly nocturnal, though with temperature changes they may modify their behavior. They typically rest in forested areas and forage in open spaces. When resting, they carve a shallow cavity in the ground to lie in.

Giant anteaters are good swimmers, capable of move through wide rivers. They also have claws that allow them to climb termite mounds and trees.

The anteater is prey to jaguars and pumas. It will typically gallop to flee from danger. But if cornered, it will rear up on its hind legs, arms extended in what’s known as the ‘anteater’s hug,’ and slash at its attacker. The giant anteater has been known to kill humans with its claws when cornered and threatened.

Mating takes place throughout the year. Gestation takes about 190 days. Pups are born with their eyes closed. The mother carries the pup on her back, its black and white band aligning with its mother’s, serving as effective camouflage.




All opossums have an anatomy that is special to them. They tend to have a hind foot with the toe separated so it’s kind of like a thumb they can grasp with.

The opossum prefers the woods, but can also live in fields and cities. They use a wide range of nest sites, preferring the hollow of a tree, but able to dig a burrow or nest in any dark location if nothing else is suitable. This often gets them in trouble with humans.

The common opossum can be similar in size to a house cat, though in 2012 a new species was discovered in Peru that is only the size of a field mouse and has no pouch like its larger cousins. 

They are mainly nocturnal. Outside of mating they are usually solitary. They are considered pests due to their raccoon-like behavior; raiding trash cans, nesting in locations that are not suitable, and causing mayhem if encountered within a human living space.

They have a broad ability to adapt to environmental changes, and they have teeth that allow them to eat many different types of food, which they find mostly on the ground. They can eat small insects, small animals, fruits, vegetables, and also carrion. Their ability to digest almost anything edible gives them a broader range than a human.

The female will have 5-9 offspring between one and three times per year. The mother raises the young alone. The opossum generally has a lifespan of about 2.5 years.



The word armadillo means ‘little man in armor’ in Spanish. This protective plate of armor gives the armadillo protection from its predators. The armor is made of flexible bands that allow the animal to roll up into a nearly impregnable ball if attacked. Some armadillo like the nine banded armadillo can jump 3-4 feet straight in the air if sufficiently frightened, making it a particular danger on roads. One species, the giant armadillo, cannot roll up into a ball, but it can inflate its intestines in order to float across rivers. The giant armadillo can also hold its breath up to six minutes which helps it sink to the bottom of rivers in order to run across the riverbed.

Most armadillo species have no hair. But the hairy long-nosed armadillo has an extremely well-haired back and abdomen. This animal prefers to inhabit areas where it can avail itself of the protective cover offered by limestone formations. It also lives in places where the dense vegetation will offer it shade. As a very adaptable animal is can also be found in scrublands, open prairies, and rainforests. It can’t thrive in particularly cold or dry environments. Its body is not well insulated by fat, making it especially susceptible to heat and water loss.

Armadillos feed on insects and worms, particularly ants, but also small lizards and salamanders. They forage for meals by thrusting their souls into loose soil and leaf litter and frantically digging in erratic patterns, stopping occasionally to dig up grubs, beetles, ants, termites, and worms which they can detect with sensitive noses through eight inches of soil. They then lap up the insects with their sticky tongues.

Young armadillos are called pups, while the males are called listers and the females, zeds. A group of armadillo is called a fez.

The common armadillo originated in South America and has migrated north into North America over time.

Armadillos have not been extensively studied in the wild. Little is known about their natural ecology and behavior. In 2003 the only long term study on the species started in the Amazon in Peru. It was found that dozens of other species of mammals, reptiles, and birds used the giant armadillos’ burrows on the same day including the rare short-eared dog. Because of this, the species is considered a habitat engineer.

The greatest threat to the armadillo is habitat destruction. As more and more forests in the Peruvian lowlands and highlands are logged or removed for agricultural reasons, the amount of suitable armadillo habitat shrinks. Hunting is also a concern as indigenous people eat the meat of the armadillo. Poaching is also a concern as the armadillo is sometimes smuggled and sold on the black market. Peru has laws protecting the armadillo, but it’s thought that these are softly enforced.