The grison, a mammal from Central and South America


Of all the mustelids, the grison has the most sociable, to the point of being captured and tamed by man. Direction Latin America to get to know a solitary and discreet mammal.

Identity card of the grison

The grison (Galictis vittata) is a mammal belonging to the order of carnivorous and to the family of mustelids. Small in size, it measures between 60 and 70 cm including tail and its weight varies from 1 to 3 kg. With the little grison (Galictis cuja), it forms the genus Galictis: both are similar in appearance but differ in size. A large area of ​​distribution makes it possible to distinguish 4 subspecies :

  • Galictis vittata andina;
  • Galictis vittata brasiliensis;
  • Galictis vittata canaster;
  • Galictis vittata vittata.

A white band on the head of the grison

The grison has a body elongate and muscular, a small head with relatively large rounded ears. Its short and powerful legs extend into partially webbed with very sharp claws. the coat du grison sports an ash gray color on the back which turns black on the ventral part, including the legs and feet. A White strip extends from the forehead to the ears and shoulders, and separates the gray forehead from the black face. Its jaw is massive and very developed.

The Grison lives near the water

The grison’s range is from Central America (Mexico) to South America (Brazil, Bolivia). Depending on its area of ​​distribution, the small mammal occupies a wide range of habitats, most often located near rivers and streams: meadows, coniferous and tropical forests, savannas, cultivated fields, palm plantations … The mustelid lives usually under tree roots, in a rock cavity, and occasionally in an abandoned armadillo burrow. The grison evolves all over the lowlands up to about 1500 m altitude.

On the menu of the grison: meat and fruit

Omnivorous with tendency carnivorous, the grison follow a diet opportunistic. It feeds on small mammals (rodents), reptiles (lizards), fish, amphibians (frogs), insects,birds and their eggs. Very lively, the grison kills its prey with a lightning bite on the back of the neck. It sometimes happens to the mustelid to consume a few fruits. Although knowing perfectly well how to climb trees, this terrestrial animal seeks its food mainly on the ground.

The grison: diurnal or nocturnal?

Hunting day and night, the Grison adopts a behavior that is subject to controversial within the scientific community. However, it seems that the mammal is rather twilight, allowing yourself moments of rest of 4 to 5 hours in the middle of the day and periods of activity very early in the morning and at the end of the afternoon. But the animal can also show itself active a lapse of time overnight!

The grison, a sociable loner

Although solitary, the grison is one of the most sociable. It is sometimes observed in pairs or in small groups of 3 to 4 individuals maximum. Just like the skunk, a grison feeling threatens contracts his two anal glands, rounds his back, directs his hindquarters towards the enemy and sprinkles a secretion nauseating. The Grison tolerates human presence and can be easily tamed if adopted young.

Polygamy in Graubünden

The grison is a species polygamous whose mating season takes place all year round. However, we note that calving often occurs in March or between August and October. At the end of a period of gestation 3 months old, the female usually gives birth to 2 cubs blind. However, a litter can have up to 4 newborns. the weaning des jeunes intervenes after about 2 months.

Stable numbers for the grison

In parts of its range, the Grison is captured for its meat or as a pet. Suspected of attacking poultry, it is also hunted down by breeders. Despite these various threats, the populations of Graubünden remain globally stable. The Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the animal in the category minor concern. In France (Guyana), the animal is fully protected : it must not be destroyed, nor transported, captured, naturalized. Its trade is prohibited and its detention requires authorization. The grison’s life expectancy is 10 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.

Photo credit: Tony Hisgett