Jaguars are the largest cats in the Americas. Adults weigh on average 80-250 pounds, although there have been records of males weighing 347 pounds. They measure about 30 inches at the shoulder and about 6 feet long plus a 30 inch tail. The coat is a tawny-yellow with spots on the head, neck and legs and rosettes on the rest of the body. Both the jaguar and leopard are known to have melanistic, or black, individuals. These individuals also have the spots and rosettes which are more visible in bright light.
Although jaguars seem to be identical to leopards, there are several ways to distinguish between the two. The coat of the jaguar has larger rosettes in smaller numbers. The rosettes are usually darker, have thicker lines and enclose smaller spots. Leopard rosettes are usually smaller, more faint and more abundant. The build of a jaguar is overall more muscular than the leopard. The head of the jaguar is square and the legs are stockier than those of leopard species.
They are excellent swimmers and love the water. On hot days they like to swim or rest in streams. Jaguars and tigers are the only two big cats that like to be in water.
Jaguars in the Wild
Dense jungles, reed thickets, shoreline forests and open country, with good cover for hunting and a good water source.
Historic range was southwestern United States to Argentina. Current range includes Mexico and Central and South America, as far south as Patagonia.
They prey upon most anything in their path including monkeys, deer, pigs, sloths, fish, small alligators and even livestock.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists jaguars as “near threatened.” Several things have contributed to their status including the large amount of deforestation for mining and timber and being hunted in order to protect livestock. But the biggest reason is the high demand for their fur. Although the jaguar was put on the endangered species list in the 1970’s, illegal trade and poaching has been a major problem.
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