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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Panthera onca

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What Are They Like?

The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas. They measure 5.5-8 feet (1.7-2.4 meters) in length, and can weigh up to 100-250 pounds (45-113 kilograms). Jaguars have lean bodies and muscular limbs. They are built for power, not speed. Jaguar fur ranges from yellow to a reddish-brown with black, rosette-shaped spots, except for the stomach, which is off-white. They can live up to 12 years in the wild, and 20 years in captivity.

Where Do They Live?

Jaguars are located from Arizona and New Mexico in the United States, throughout Mexico, and down through most of South America, predominately in the rainforest of the Amazon Basin. Jaguars live near the rainforest because of the presence of water (they are excellent swimmers). Habitats range from rainforest to seasonally flooded swamp areas, pampas grassland, thorn scrub woodland, and dry deciduous forest, though they prefer permanent water sources rather than seasonally dry forests.

Did You Know?
The jaguar is the third largest living feline after the tiger and the lion.

How Are Babies Made?

Female jaguars typically reproduce once every two years, particularly during wet seasons when prey is abundant. After a gestation period of 90 to 111 days, a female will give birth to a litter of one to four offspring. Young cubs begin to hunt with their mother after five or six months and go on their own after almost two years.

What Do They Eat?

Jaguars are strictly carnivores. They feed on 85 different kinds of prey, primarily large animals such as deer, crocodiles, turtles, large birds, porcupines, snakes, and fish. Jaguars catch their prey by pouncing on them from hidden spots in dense vegetation, which is provided by wet habitats. They have also been known to eat cattle and other livestock in domestic areas. Jaguars depend on their strong jaws and large canines to help them chew their food.


What Do They Do?

Jaguars are mostly active at dusk and dawn in search of food. When not hunting, they rest in caves or large, cool vegetation. Jaguars are solitary animals and females and males interact almost exclusively during mating season. They are also known as a keystone species, meaning they are important in keeping the ecosystem they live in functioning properly.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the jaguar in a "Red List" of species in global endangerment as "near threatened". The jaguar is also listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Their wild population is presently decreasing due to habitat destruction and poaching. There are laws prohibiting the killing of jaguars, but farmers and ranchers do it to protect their livestock, and there is still illegal hunting for paws, teeth and fur.

What's Being Done?

The jaguar is protected nationally across most of its range, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the jaguar as endangered. They are also listed on Appendix 1 of CITES. In Arizona and New Mexico, a Jaguar Conservation Team (JAGCT) is committed to compiling scientific literature, developing protocols for handling and capturing Jaguars, and creating an education curriculum. JAGCT is also monitoring Jaguars and compensating ranchers and farmers for livestock losses due to Jaguars. Defenders of Wildlife is also protecting northern jaguars in the core of their range through monitoring on ground by a Jaguar Guardian partnership project and through the establishment of the Northern Jaguar Reserve in Mexico.


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