The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas. The jaguar has a compact body, a broad head and powerful jaws. Its coat is normally yellow and tan, but the color can vary from reddish brown to black. The spots on the coat are more solid and black on the head and neck and become larger rosette-shaped patterns along the side and back of the body.
Jaguar, © Warwick Lister Kaye / iStockphoto
As a top-level carnivore, the big cat helps prevent overgrazing of vegetation by keeping its prey populations in balance. Jaguars are also important in human culture, frequently playing a central role in stories, songs and prayers of indigenous people. Yet today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States.
Jaguars are known to eat deer, peccary, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, deer, sloths, tapirs, turtles, eggs, frogs, fish and anything else they can catch.
Did You Know?
The jaguar is the third-largest living feline species, after the tiger and lion.
At best, only an estimated 15,000 jaguars remain in the wild. Bi-national conservation efforts have been successful at protecting a small population of 80 to 120 cats in the remote mountains of Sonora, Mexico bordering Arizona. This population is the largest of three known to remain in Sonora, and is the last hope for recovery in the United States.
Range & Habitat
The mighty jaguar once roamed from Argentina in South America all the way up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States and are endangered throughout their range, which stretches down to Patagonia in South America. The jaguar makes its home in a wide-variety of habitats including deciduous forests, rainforests, swamps, pampas grasslands and mountain scrub areas.
Jaguars are solitary animals and live and hunt alone, except during mating season. The male's home range is between 19 and 53 square miles and often overlaps with the smaller home ranges of multiple females. A male aggressively protects his home range and resident females from other males.
The jaguar hunts mostly on the ground, but it sometimes climbs a tree and pounces on its prey from above. It has very powerful jaws and sharp teeth and usually kills its prey with one crushing bite to the skull. Unlike most big cats, the jaguar loves the water — it often swims, bathes, plays and even hunts for fish in streams and pools. Like all members of the big cat family, jaguars can roar. The jaguar’s roar sounds like a deep, chesty cough.
Did You Know?
According to one indigenous myth, the jaguar acquired its spotted coat by daubing mud on its body with its paws.
Kittens stay with their mother from 1-1.5 years.
Mating Season: Occurs year-round
Gestation: 90-110 days
Litter size: 1-4 kittens