Although jaguars are good climbers, they hunt mainly on the ground at night. They will however, climb trees in order to lie and wait for prey.

The jaguar can over short distances rapidly, but it will tire quickly. Therefore its successful kills rely on both surprise and getting sufficiently close to unsuspecting prey.

Its main food consists of forest animals – varying in size from mice to deer. However the jaguar is also an excellent swimmer, able to catch frogs, fish, turtles and even small alligators!

The jaguar is especially skilled at catching fish, which it achieves by lying motionless on a rock or overhanging branch, then flipping the fish out on the bank with its paw.

Jaguars will also take domestic animals – particularly where the forest has been cleared for farmland.

After the kill, jaguars will drag their pray into cover before eating it, often burying part of the carcass to finish it off later.

Where do Jaguars live

Jaguars live in a variety of habitats, from dense jungle and scrub land to reed thickets and shore-line forests. They will even live in open country provided the grass and rocks offer sufficient cover for hunting and a reliable supply of water is available.

Jaguars were once found everywhere from Arizona to Argentina, but ruthless hunting has wiped them out from most of their range, and reduced them greatly elsewhere.

In many countries, rapid expansion of forest clearing to provide pastures for beef cattle and to build new settlements has finished what the hunters began.

Jaguars are said to still be common in the upper basin of the Orinoco, Venezuela, but almost everywhere else they are in danger of extinction. In fact there are believed to be less that 200 jaguars left in the whole of Argentina! At this rate, the only flourishing population of jaguars left will be those held by world’s zoos.

Jaguars have a reputation for being man-eaters, and there are many hunters’ tales of men being followed for mile after mile through the forest by a solitary jaguar, which eventually fades away as silently as it appeared. This suggests that the animal was escorting the men off from its territory. If the jaguar had been hunting them, it would have had plenty of opportunities to attack and kill its intended prey.

Adult jaguars are solitary animals, except during the breeding season when a male and female stay together for a short while in order to mate. The young jaguars stay with their mother for the first few years of life before leaving the family to find hunting territories of their own.

The size of the jaguar’s territory depends on the availability of food. Where food is plentiful – as you would expect in an area of undisturbed forest – a jaguar should be able to feed itself from a circular area of about 5 km in diameter. Where food is scarcer – perhaps because the forest has been cleared – a jaguar may need a territory of 500 sq km, 30 times larger!

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