Greater Grison (Galictis vittata) photo by Tony Hisgett
Last week, in a throwaway post about a bizarre weasel-related mishap at the world’s foremost scientific facility, I promised Ferrebeekeeper would feature more weird and magnificent mustelids. Today we make good that promise. This is the greater grison (Galictis vittata), a relative of weasels and badgers which lives in the great rainforests of Central America and South America (the northern part of the continent). Adult greater grisons weigh in at 1.5 to 3.8 kilograms (3.3 to 8.5 lbs) and range from the Yucatan Peninsula down across the Amazon Basin to the Mato Grosso Plateau. The southern reached of South America are home to a very similar but smaller grison—the lesser grison (Galictis cuja)—which only weighs 1.2 to 2.4 kg (2.6 to 5.3 lbs).
Lesser Grison (Galictis cuja) photo by Edward Tchementchekov
Grisons are solitary hunters which live on a wide variety of small prey, particularly small vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, birds, and rodents (but also invertebrates and maybe some larger prey when the opportunity presents itself). Their diet is not perfectly understood, but it seems to also contain a fair amount of fruits, berries, and vegetables as well. Not only are they omnivores but they can change their schedule. Though they are largely diurnal—they can operate at night when it suits them. Likewise they are predominantly terrestrial but they can swim and climb trees with great facility. They are clever generalists capable of living in grasslands, forests, scrublands, pastures, croplands, and mountains. Grisons live in hollowed out logs or the abandoned dens of other animals.
Grisons are sometimes tamed when young and they prove to be resourceful and adaptable domesticated animals capable of hunting chinchillas (back when there were sufficient chinchillas to hunt). Perhaps it seems like we don’t know as much as we might about grisons in the wild…and it turns out that such is the case. Grisons have wide necks which taper down to narrow heads—which means that behavioral zoologists have not had much luck putting radio collars on them. Grisons are also clever and solitary, which means that their lives are not completely understood (an unusual feature in our media saturated world). Unfortunately they do have a terrible weakness: almost all grisons that are seen, are spotted after they have been smashed by cars. Like skunks, and armadillos, they are particularly susceptible to being killed by cruel and indifferent motorists who will never rest till every living thing not inside a protective steel box has been crushed dead. However South America is a big place and roads don’t go everywhere yet, so grisons are still out there, biding their time.
photo by criadourooncapintada.org