Jaguar Facts: the Largest Cat in Americas

Jaguars are big cats usually found in South, Central, and North America and identifiable with their orange or yellow coats, short legs, and dark spots. Additionally, these dark spots on this animal are unlike other cat spots, with each of these spots resembling a rose and called rosettes.

Size

According to Defender of Wildlife, jaguars are the third biggest cats in the globe and the largest cats in the Americas. From the flank to the head, jaguars are usually 4 to 6 feet long, with a tail that is about 2 feet in length, but the cat’s nails are rather short in comparison to other big cats, growing to up to 3.5 feet.

Male jaguars are heavier than female jaguars weighing from 126 to 250 pounds, whereas the female counterparts weigh about 100 to 200 pounds, as Denver Zoo stated.

Habitat

Usually, jaguars live in wood or forests, but can still be found in desert regions such as Arizona. They prefer living close to water due to their preference of eating fish, and they use their tails by dipping it in water to lure fish, just like a fishing line.

Traditionally though, jaguars wandered the southwestern United States from California to Texas.

Nevertheless, in the early 1900s, anti-predator efforts wiped out the jaguar population from the range’s northern reaches. Therefore, it is in the state of Sonora, Mexico is where the northernmost jaguar breeding population is present. However, occasionally, jaguars are spotted in Arizona.

Habits

Typically, jaguars are lone creatures, spending time with other jaguars only when taking care of the cubs or during periods of mating. According to the University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web (ADW), jaguars mark their territory by either marking trees suing their claws or with urine to keep others of their kinds at bay.

Other than humans who hunt them for sport or their fur, jaguars do not have any natural predators but are top-notch predators.

Furthermore, jaguar derives their name from the Native American word “yajuar” which means “he who kills with one leap.” When hunting, jaguars take advantage of their sharp teeth and strong jaws, catching prey by its head then chopping it down to make the kill, unlike other cats which generally go for the neck when killing the prey.

Diet

Being carnivorous, jaguars only feed on meat. While in the wild, jaguars utilize their stealth and speed to take down peccary, deer, birds, monkeys, frogs, alligators, fish and tiny rodents. Additionally, if wild food is scarce, jaguar start hunting domestic livestock.

Having the strongest jaws of all the cat species, and consequently using these strong jaws, jaguars can crunch down on bones and feed on them. According to the BBC, jaguar jaws are powerful enough to crack the shell of a sea turtle. While in the zoo, bones are a regular part of the jaguar’s diet.

Jaguars do not like sharing their meal and will only feed on their prey once they have dragged it into the trees, even if the tree is a relatively far away from the point it made the kill.

Offspring

It is during August and September that jaguars’ mate. Subsequently, the female goes on and carries the young for approximately 100 days and after that give birth to one to four young ones.

Baby jaguars are known as cubs and are born with eyelids that are sealed shut. However, after approximately two weeks, the jaguar cubs can see for the first time. Jaguar mothers will teach the cubs how to hunt after six months, and just after their second birthday, the cubs will set out on their own and leave their mother. The lifespan of jaguars is usually about 12 years.

Conservation Status

Due to the destruction of the rainforest and increased poaching, jaguars are “near endangered” according to the International Union for Conservancy of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Moreover, the World Wildlife Federation states that jaguars present in the wild are only around 15,000.

Additional Facts

As a result of genetic mutation, there exist all black or melanistic jaguars, with this mutation causing the fur and skin to contain vast amounts of dark pigment. Such jaguars are only found in the rainforests since it is easy for them to blend into the dark shadows of the trees gently.

Having a layer of tissue in the back of the eyes, which reflects light, jaguars can see in darker conditions or at night six times better than humans do.

Lastly, one unique aspect about the jaguar that distinguishes it from other cats is that it is an outstanding swimmer and not afraid of water. Professionals debate how crucial this habitat is overall survival of the jaguar; however, some state conservationists claim Arizona could be a vital habitat for these big cats when the climate warms, and the prey moves north.

Otherwise, jaguar findings in the state have been rare and far between.

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