Did you know that capybaras come from the same family as the rat? In fact, they are the largest rodent in the world! These unusual animals are about the size of a sheep, have barrel-shaped bodies like pigs and partly webbed feet. Some say that they resemble a large guinea pig. Capybaras are semiaquatic, which means that they are adapted to survive on land and water. They are good swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for almost five minutes. Capybaras are only found in South America, where the habitat of thick forests and abundant water is ideal for them. Here is plenty of their favourite food such as grass, fruit, and water plants. Unfortunately, this makes them the prey of at least eight predators that share the same habitat.
1. The Jaguar
The jaguar is one of the biggest and most beautiful cats found in the Americas. For this reason, it was worshipped as a god by people in ancient times. It looks similar to a leopard, having large spots on its creamy colored fur. This provides the perfect camouflage for hiding in the tall grasses and stalking prey. The jaguar also has the advantage of night vision so they can hunt under cover of darkness. Their sharp teeth and powerful jaws enable them to pierce the thick skull of their prey. Capybaras are one of their favorite foods and, because jaguars are good swimmers, they can also catch them in the lakes and rivers. Because of this, jaguars are the biggest predators of capybara.
2. The Puma
Pumas are also known as the South American cougar or mountain lion. They have muscular hind legs and can make enormous jumps. With the ability to run at great speed, they can easily catch a capybara. Using their outstanding vision, they stalk capybaras at dusk and wait until they see the chance to pounce. They kill by biting the animal on the back of its neck. Then, using their powerful jaws, they can drag these heavy animals to their lair. A puma prefers not eating the whole animal at once but likes to store it somewhere safe and return to snack on it over a few days.
Just like the capybara, the ocelot lives in thick forests and close to water. Ocelots are small wild cats with beautiful dark spots as well as stripes. Like all cats, they are nocturnal, so they are most active from dusk to dawn when they do their hunting. Because they are not very large carnivores, they are mainly a threat to baby capybaras. This predator of capybara kill their prey by ripping it to shreds and eat right away.
Caimans are carnivorous reptiles of the alligator family. So, they have extremely sharp teeth, despite being smaller than most other crocodilians. Along with many other South American animals, they live in the rainforest and need to be close to water. They have the same body shape as alligators with strong jaws and pointed faces. Their long, powerful tails are used for swimming. Caimans are covered with scales and, with their eyes and nostrils on the top of their heads, they can hide underwater and wait for their prey. The largest type of caiman, the black caiman, is strong enough to catch a capybara and these animals are often eaten by this predator.
5. The Green Anaconda
Another big predator of capybara is the green anaconda, the largest reptile in the world and it also shares the same habitat in South America as the capybara. This is bad news for the capybara because these constrictors can swallow a whole, adult capybara in one go! The green anaconda hunts in the water and uses its razor sharp teeth to grab and hold its prey. It does not have venomous fangs, so it wraps its body around the animal and squeezes (constricts) until the prey stops breathing. After that, it stretches its huge jaw and slowly swallows the animal. Depending on the size of the prey, the green anaconda can take weeks to digest its food.
6. The Harpy Eagle
With predators on the ground and in the water, the capybara has a full-time job trying to avoid becoming dinner for other animals. Another threat comes from the trees. The Harpy Eagle is a powerful bird of prey that eats capybaras. It has grey wing feathers, a white breast, and a distinctive black collar. This silent, patient hunter waits in the top layer of the rainforest until an animal appears. Swooping down quickly, it captures the prey in its enormous talons and flies away without landing. This capybara predator is even strong enough to carry a large capybara in its beak!
7. The Crab- Eating Fox
The crab-eating fox, or forest fox, is another threat to the young capybaras. Found in South America, they live in grasslands and on woody riverbanks, where they hunt for food. Crab-eating foxes are omnivores, meaning they eat plants and animals. Their favorite food are the crabs that they find in the mud during the rainy season. During the dry season, however, it is forced to search for other types of food and that is when it includes the capybara in its diet.
8. The Caracara
We end our list of capybara predators with the caracara, a member of the falcon species of birds. They have long, strong legs so they can hunt in the tall grass, on riverbanks and when in flight. This is the reason why they are a threat to young capybara. They prefer eating carrion, which is the rotting flesh of dead animals but they will attack small animals if that is not available. They may hunt in pairs to catch larger animals and a young capybara would be no match for these powerful birds of prey.
Capybaras have no real defences against predators. Many of their predators are also semi-aquatic, so they must hide under the water or swim very fast if they are to survive. Besides animal predators, they are also hunted by humans, but fortunately for them, their fur and meat are not attractive or valuable.
I hope that this article on capybara predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!