Pound-for-pound, the fossa is one of the most formidable hunters on the planet. It is acrobatic, agile, and relentless in its pursuit of lemurs. They possess a set of long, lean forearms that are coupled with imposing claws and teeth.
Fossas are solitary creatures except for the mating season. The fossa’s mating ritual is unusual and elaborate. A single, dominant female will climb high up onto a tree branch, vocalize and emit liquid pheromones, announcing her receptiveness to the males who have gathered below. The dominant male will win the rights to first mate with the female for over an hour. Then, the next highest ranking male will climb the tree, and she will mate with him as well. After the first female has disembarked from the tree, a second female will duplicate her routine, until every fossa in the area has had a chance to mate.
The fossa is the apex mammalian predator on the island of Madagascar. It prefers the densely forested savannas of the coastal plains and the mountains that run along the edges of the island. It will avoid the treeless areas of the central highlands.
The fossa is strictly carnivorous, with well over half its diet consisting of the lemurs, which it catches and consumes while in the trees. It will also feed opportunistically on the ground for birds, baby bush pigs, civet cats, fish, rats, eggs, snakes, frogs, and insects. Occasionally, the fossa will raid into domestic areas and steal chickens, small sheep, and goats.
Muscular and athletic, the fossa has a deserved reputation as a fearsome and solitary hunter. Standing about 15 inches tall, its long slender body might reach up to 32 inches long (with an equally long tail). It possesses a thick reddish-brown coat on its backside and a cream-colored underbelly. Protractile claws allow it to grasp its prey and quickly scamper up the trees. Its catlike face and thick facial whiskers allow it to plunge through the thickest foliage with lightning speed.