Mexico is home to 535 species of mammals. Only two other countries have more mammals species than Mexico – Indonesia (667) and Brasil (578).


So far 4,381 species of mammals have been described worldwide.


All mammalian females have mammary glands with which they feed their young. Almost all mammals have bodies covered with hair. Mammals live on land, in the water (both fresh and oceans) and some (bats) even mastered flight.

Illegal trade

The smallest and the most endangered species of cetacean, Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) lives in the Gulf of California. Its critically endangered population had declined to only about 30 individuals at the end of 2016!

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Mammals of Western Mexico


Around 100 species of mammals are known to inhabit the area of the Banderas Bay. Of those, 14 species are Cetaceans (dolphins and whales), inhabiting or visiting the bay’s waters (E. Lugo & M.E. Rodriguez, personal communication, January, 2007). The highest diversity in land-dwelling species is found in Bats (Chiroptera) and Rodents (Rodentia). Both groups include many species endemic to the region. The third largest group is Carnivores (Carnivora), including the only carnivore species endemic to Mexico – the Pygmy Spotted Skunk (Spilogale pygmaea). The study area contains no species of primate. Mexico has the second largest number of mammalian species in the world. So far, 525 species have been recorded Approximately 30% of those are endemic (Ceballos G. & Oliva G., 2005).

Marine mammals

A total of 14 cetacean species have been observed visiting the waters of the bay. Some of them, such as the Killer Whale (Orcinus orca), the false Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens), or the Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps), visit the bay on an irregular basis (E. Lugo & M.E. Rodriguez, personal communication, January, 2007). Other species, such as the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and the Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata), are year-round residents. The Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) arrives at Banderas Bay regularly during the winter months for its annual mating and calving season. There are no Pinniped species (seals or sea-lions) in the study area.

Freshwater mammals

The largest fresh water mammal of the region is the Neotropical River Otter (Lontra longicaudis). This species is found in close vicinity to fresh water bodies, the banks of which are covered with abundant vegetation, providing otters with shelter. Because all vegetation types close to fresh water have suffered severe decline in the past century, this species is rare within the study area. However, several individuals of the species have been seen repeatedly in Puerto Vallarta, namely the mouth of River Cuale.

Forest mammals

Most mammal species in the study area are terrestrial. Both groups with the greatest number of species –bats and rodents—usually escape our attention due to their nocturnal way of life. Large cats (the area is inhabited by all 6 species of Mexican cats) are extremely dif cult to see in their natural environment. Perhaps the most frequently encountered forest mammals are the White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica) and the Gray fox (Urocyon cinereoagrenteus).

How to find mammals

Mammals can prove very dif cult to nd in their natural environment. The majority of mammal species in the study area are strictly nocturnal, and some are extremely elusive. Although some species might be observed at dawn and dusk or during daylight hours in their sleeping sites, for best results, look for mammals at night. A strong light source is crucial, as it will enable you to see the animal’s eyes glowing in the dark. With some experience, you may be able to differentiate between species by their speci c eye shine (for more information on this subject, consult Reid, 1997). It is a good idea to carry

two light sources: a headlamp, which enables you to use both your hands whenever needed, and one hand-held ashlight, to illuminate canopies of higher trees or other more distant objects. Binoculars can also prove very useful, as long as they have a good light- gathering capacity. Local cetaceans are distributed throughout the bay. The best way to observe them is hiring a boat or joining a tour focused on their observation. When whale watching, always enquire whether the operator has a valid whale watching license. Traveling by car, boat, or by foot, are all good means of observing mammals. While driving, take special care not to cause harm to any animal crossing the road. When traveling by foot, keep quiet, stop frequently, look and listen. When you spot an animal, remain motionless.

Be aware of the fact that there are several large-bodied mammals (such as peccaries, jaguars, pumas and others) in the region which could prove dangerous if they perceive a threat. Night walking is recommended only under a supervision of an experienced guide.

Endemic Mammals

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