Sloths are arboreal mammals known for their slow movement. They spend almost their entire life hanging in the trees upside down. They are native to Central America and South America. There are six known species of sloths, all under two families: three-toed- and two-toed sloths. Sloths are named so because of their low metabolism and movement. With sloths’ slow movement, they are not easily detected by predatory cats and hawks that hunt by sight. Although helpless on the ground, sloths are excellent swimmers. Also, their shaggy coats host algae that give them a greenish colour to help them camouflage in the trees. Even with the camouflage, sloths still have predators. Here is a list of sloths top eight predators.
1. The Great Harpy Eagle
The harpy eagle is the world’s most powerful eagle and the sloth’s main predator. The eagle’s talons are larger than those of a bear, and its grip can crush a human arm. The bird is one of the largest in the world. It can weigh up to five kilograms, or 11 pounds, with females often twice as heavy. They are also among the most powerful birds on the planet and can lift prey the size of a sloth, baby deer or even a monkey. The massive birds have a wingspan of 6.5 feet (two meters) and can be 3.5 feet (one meter) tall. Harpy eagles seldom soar through rainforest canopies like other raptors. Instead, they prefer moving from tree to tree during hunting.
Harpy eagles do not have to hunt every day because they can feed on one kill for several days in a row. Their bodies can tolerate meat that has spent many days in the tropical rainforest’s hot environment. The birds do not have to eat every day, and can actually spend a whole week without any food. The harpy eagle’s favorite meal are tree-dwelling animals such as sloths, iguanas, monkeys, and other smaller birds. They also eat ground-dwelling species such as wild pigs, deer, large rodents, and coatis.
The puma is a generalist predator that eats any animal it comes across, as long as it can catch it. In North America, it’s most important species of prey include various deer species, elk, white-tailed deer, and mule deer, among others. In central and south America, the puma feeds mainly on small and mid-sized mammals such as sloths and large rodents such as capybara. Pumas usually ambush their prospective prey. In central and south America, the puma often has to compete for prey with its larger cousin, the jaguar. Other prey species include wild turkey, rhea, vicuna, peccary, guanaco, hares, raccoons, beavers, porcupines, and mice. In the south, and hardly ever in the north, the puma sometimes preys on small reptiles and birds.
Although pumas can sprint, they prefer to ambush their prospective prey, which makes puma a dangerous predator of sloths. They stalk through trees and sometimes through bushes, across ledges and other covered spots. They then deliver a mighty leap into the back of their prey and suffocate it with a neck bite. They have enough power to break the necks of their smaller prey with strong momentum and bite that bears the animal to the ground.
Many people love dogs, but stray and domestic dogs have become leading predators for wild sloths, especially in Costa Rica. Sloths are not naturally equipped to defend themselves against dog attacks. In any case, dogs should not be a problem for any animal that dwells high up in the trees. However, the rapid destruction of sloths’ habitats has seen the distance between trees increase. This forces the helpless animals to move around on the ground where they find themselves vulnerable. It is under such vulnerable situations that dogs, both domestic and stray, attack sloths.
4. The Boa Constrictor
Snakes are another of sloths’ predators, with the boa constrictor being the main one. Boa constrictors live in the same habitats — tropical rainforests — as sloths. When attacked by the boa constrictor, the sloth has the advantage of being able to shield itself from the snake with its long arms. These constrictors also prey on almost all other animals living in the rainforests.
5. The Jaguars
Jaguars are another of sloths’ predators. Among a jaguar’s most fruitful hunting techniques is its ability to climb into a tree. It often then waits for its prey to pass below. Once on a tree, the jaguar will not have to worry about rustling leaves or stepping on twigs. Her scent is also less detectable in this position. Whenever a prey comes wondering below it, it pounces on it by surprise. For sloths, the jaguar either pounces on them while defecating on the ground or while hanging on trees.
Contact with electrical lines and poaching account for most of the recorded sloth deaths in countries such as Costa Rica where they are dominant. Humans hunt for sloths mainly for their meat. Also, sloths have increasingly become victims of animal trafficking and are sold as pets. Sloths are, however, very poor pets as their ecology is a specialized one and cannot fit in human homes.
On the list of predators of sloths, panthers make our list. Beside sloths, they hunt and eat small or medium wild animals, including reptiles, birds, rabbits, wild boars, deer, and antelopes. They have an added advantage of being excellent climbers. As such, they can quickly get sloths from up in the trees, kill them and drag them down to the ground or eat them up the trees.
8. The Anaconda
A typical anaconda eats about four to five times a year. When it successfully kills and eats its prey, it takes three to four months to digest it. The anaconda kills by constricting its prey until it’s unable to breathe. It sometimes drowns it. It then swallows it whole, heat first. Like all snakes, the anaconda can swallow an animal wider than itself. Other than sloths, anacondas also eat rodents, fish, birds, caiman, deer, and pigs.
I hope that this list of sloth predators was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!