Habitat & Range
Once ranging from Arizona to Patagonia, jaguars are now extremely rare due to over hunting and are only found in South and Central America. Jaguars live in a variety of habitats, from dense jungle and scrubland to reed thickets and shoreline forests. They sometimes will also live in open country, assuming the grass and rocks offer enough cover for hunting, and a reliable source of water is present.
Jaguars are the third largest cats in the world, with males typically ranging from 125 to 250 pounds. Females range from 100 to 200 pounds. The most common color pattern is orange-tan with black rings and spots, although a recessive trait can cause them to be completely black. Although similar in appearance to leopards, jaguars can be distinguished by their stockier build, larger heads and discontinuous rings around their spots.
Like all cats, the jaguar is a carnivore that feeds solely on meat. They primarily hunt on the ground for large prey including sloths, monkeys, capybaras, deer and foxes. They are also strong swimmers and will occasionally hunt for fish, frogs, turtles and small alligators.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Jaguars mate throughout the year, but births increase when prey is plentiful. After mating, pairs will separate and the female will do all the parenting. The gestation period is 93 to 105 days and produces up to 4 cubs. Following the birth of her cubs, a female will not tolerate the presence of a male for fear of infanticide.
Typical lifespan of a jaguar in the wild is 12 to 15 years. In captivity, they can live to be 23 years old, placing them as one of the longest-lived cats.
Fantastic Fact Top of the Chain
The adult jaguar is considered an apex predator; it exists at the top of its food chain and is not preyed on in the wild. Some scientists theorize that animals in this position help to control the population levels of their prey which in turn maintains the structural integrity of forest systems.
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