The jaguar can be found in the wild in limited numbers in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States and Venezuela but is now extinct in Uruguay and El Salvador.
Jaguars have an unusual method of killing their prey; they have an incredibly powerful bite and huge teeth and typically kill their prey with a single bite to the head, piercing the skull and causing near-instant death. Their immensely powerful bite even allows them to select armoured reptiles such as turtles as prey.
The jaguar prefers dense forest areas as its habitat, but will also inhabit wide open areas – preferably close to water.
The black jaguar is known as the ‘melanistic jaguar’ and they account for approximately 6% of the jaguar population. Their distinctive spots are visible close-up although less obvious due to their colouring. They are also known as ‘black panthers’ although they are not considered to be a separate species.
The jaguar is unusual for a cat in that it actually enjoys swimming.
The jaguar is an ‘apex predator’ which means that it has no natural predator of its own – it resides at the top of the food-chain.
The jaguar is a ‘hypercarnivore’ meaning that its diet consists of more than 70% meat. In truth the diet of the jaguar is 100% meat.
The scientific name of the jaguar is ‘panthera onca’.
The jaguar prefers large prey such as deer and peccaries (a member of the pig family) but will also attack and eat prey as diverse as large snakes, armadillo, tapir, fish, mice and frogs!
Jaguar population numbers are difficult to ascertain due to the nature of the terrain in which they live – it is however abundantly clear that their numbers are in decline.
The range of the jaguar in Argentina is now only 10% of its historical size.
It is essential for colonies of jaguar (and other animals) to be geographically linked in order that the gene pool may be maintained.