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It is one of four ‘big cats’ in the ‘Panthera’ genus, along with the Old World tiger, lion and leopard

The jaguar is the third largest cat after the tiger and the lion

The jaguar is the largest and most powerful cat in the Western Hemisphere The Jaguars’ current range extends from Mexico (with occasional sightings in the southwestern United States) across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina

Rainforest jaguars are generally darker and significantly smaller than those found in open areas, possibly due to the smaller herbivorous prey in forest areas Jaguars grow to about 162 – 183 meters (53 – 6 feet) tall and stand about 67 – 76 centimeters (27 – 30 inches) tall at the shoulders

Jaguars weigh about 36 kilograms (80 pounds)

Larger jaguars have been recorded as weighing 131 – 151 kilograms (288 – 333 pounds) The base coat of the jaguar is generally a tawny yellow color, but can vary to reddish brown and black

The jaguar is covered in ‘rosettes’ for camouflage in its jungle habitat The patches vary across individual coats and between individual Jaguars

The spots on the head and neck are generally solid, as are those on the tail, where they may merge to form a band

The underbelly, throat and outer surface of the legs and lower flanks are white Rare albino individuals, sometimes called ‘white panthers’, occur among jaguars, as with the other big cats The jaguar is physically most similar to the leopard, although the jaguar is of a sturdier build and its behavioral and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the tiger Jaguars are the second strongest of all mammals

Jaguars will eat a variety of animals including birds, eggs and mammals including capybaras, peccaries, tapirs, turtles and alligators

Jaguars often bury their prey after killing it so they can eat it later

The jaguar is often described as nocturnal, but is more specifically crepuscular (peak activity around dawn and dusk) The jaguar is a largely solitary stalk and ambush predator and is opportunistic in prey selection

It is also an apex predator (predators that, as adults, are not normally attacked in the wild in significant parts of their range by creatures not of their own species) and a cornerstone predator, which is an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations of prey species The jaguar has developed a particularly powerful bite, even compared to the other big cats

The jaguar bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal blow to the brain It has been reported that an individual jaguar can drag a 360-kilogram (800-pound) bull 8 meters (25 feet) long in its jaws, crushing the heaviest bones

The jaguar hunts wild animals weighing up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds) in dense jungle and its short and stocky physique is therefore an adaptation to its prey and environment

Jaguar Habitat Jaguars are large, wild, graceful cats that live in rainforests, swamps, deserts and scrublands

It is strongly associated with the presence of water and is, along with the tiger, a very good swimmer Jaguar behavior Jaguars are territorial

Like most cats, the jaguar is solitary outside of mother-cub groups

Adults generally only come to court and mate, carving out large territories for themselves

Female territories, from 25 to 40 square kilometers in size, may overlap, but the animals usually avoid each other

Male ranges cover about twice as much area, vary in size with game and space availability, and do not overlap

Scratch marks, urine and feces are used to mark territory Like the other big cats, the jaguar is capable of roaring (the male more powerful) and does so to warn away territorial and mating rivals

Intense bouts of countercalls between individuals have been observed in the wild

Mating fights between males occur but are rare

A male range may include that of two or three females, but he will not tolerate intrusion by other mature males Jaguar Reproduction Female jaguars reach sexual maturity at about 2 years of age and males at 3 or 4 years of age

The jaguar is believed to mate throughout the year in the wild, although births may increase when prey is plentiful

Both male and female jaguars will stretch wider than usual during courtship Mating pairs separate after mating and females provide all the parental care

Jaguar females give birth to up to 4 cubs, but usually only 2 cubs

The mother will not tolerate the presence of males after the birth of cubs, given the risk of infant cannibalism

This behavior is also found in the tiger The young are born blind and gain sight after 2 weeks

Cubs are weaned at 3 months, but remain in the birth den for 6 months before leaving to accompany their mother on hunting trips

They will stay in their mothers company for one to two years before leaving to establish a territory for themselves

Young males are on their first leave and clash with the older jaguars until they manage to claim a territory

Typical lifespan of the jaguar in the wild is estimated to be around 12 – 15 years

In captivity, the jaguar lives up to 23 years, making it among the longest living cats Jaguar conservation status Jaguars are an endangered species due to habitat loss and overhunting by humans and their numbers are declining All hunting of jaguars is prohibited in Argentina, Belize, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States (where it is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act), Uruguay and Venezuela Hunting of jaguars is restricted to ‘problem animals’ in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, while trophy hunting is still allowed in Bolivia

The jaguar is generally defined as an ‘umbrella species’, a species whose home range and habitat requirements are wide enough that, if protected, numerous other smaller-range species would also be protected

Conservation organizations can therefore focus on providing viable, connected habitat for the jaguar, knowing that other species will also benefit More Fascinating Animals to Learn AboutBritish WildcatsCats Galapagos GeckoMealy ParrotTeira BatfishGreat Green Macaw

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