Jaguar Cat

Jaguar Cat

The Jaguar cat is found in most parts of the South American continent, throughout Central America and in Mexico and southern United States. The jaguar cat prefers habitats where it will have access to plenty of water year round, but it can be found in much drier environments too. The Jaguar cat lives in temperate, subtropical and tropical forests as well as on the dry savannah, subtropical grasslands, thorn scrub woodland, and dry tropical lowland regions. In Mexico, it is even found in desert terrain. It likes seasonally flooded environments and marshlands. The Jaguar cat usually stay away from great heights and is not found above 2,700 metres in the Andes or in the high plateau of central Mexico. Occasional specimens have however been sighted 3,800 metres above sea level.

Earlier, the jaguar cat could be found a far north as California and Texas in the United States but the wild population disappeared from south western United States and northern Mexico during the middle of the 20th century due to vigorous hunting. A similar prosecution of the jaguar cat has occurred in the pampas scrub grasslands of Argentina and Uruguay. Today, the Amazon region is the main stronghold for the jaguar cat, while the species is rapidly declining in most other habitats. In 2004, wildlife officials managed to photograph jaguars in southern Arizona, but these specimens might have been temporary visitors from Sonora, Mexico. If we travel very far back in history, we see that jaguars actually inhabited a region that stretched as far north as Missouri. These prehistoric jaguars are only known from fossils and were much bigger than our contemporary jaguar cat.

The jaguar cat is included in CITES Appendix I. According to figures from 1996, there are fewer than 50,000 mature breeding jaguar cats left in the world. If the decline persists, the jaguar cat will become much vulnerable and might face the risk of extinction. Today, the jaguar is fully protected by national legislation in most of its native environments, but illegal hunting still continues. Hunting jaguar cat is forbidden in the United States, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, French Guiana, Paraguay, Suriname, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Argentina. Hunting restrictions apply in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil and Peru. When the jaguar cat lives in protected areas, such as national parks, it is of course also formally protected from hunters. 

Farmers tend to view the jaguar cat as a threat, since it can kill domesticated animals. Humans will also compete with the jaguar cat for prey, and commercial hunting and tapping is still carried out by poachers. Killing the jaguar cat for its pelt is however not as common today as it used to be, and the CITES listing have managed to reduce the presence of jaguar pelts on the international market.  Deforestation is instead becoming a growing problem, since the remaining jaguar cat population can become trapped in small patches of land.    

The Jaguar cat is an apex predator, which means that it is not considered prey by any other animal than man. The Jaguar is an opportunistic predator that will feed on a wide range of animals, but it prefers hoofed mammals. We know that jaguars can include at least 85 different animal species in their diet, including everything from peccaries and tapirs to small caimans. If unable to find large prey, the jaguar cat will happily gulp down birds, fish, frogs and mice. They can also kill domesticated animals such as cattle.

More info on big and small wild cats:

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