THE BIG CAT
The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest living cat (Felidae) in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world, after the tiger (1) and lion (2). Although they appear similar to the leopards of Africa and Asia, which have a spotted pattern, jaguars have "rosettes", which are circular black markings with spots at the center. Both leopards and jaguars, however, can be entirely black, yet still, retain their spots and rosettes respectively.
Head and body, 5 to 6 ft
Tail, 27.5 to 36 in
AVERAGE LIFESPAN IN THE WILD
Jaguars are found in a variety of habitats from the U.S.-Mexico border south to Argentina, including dry woodlands, wetlands, and savannas. However they are most frequently associated with rainforests, and the largest population of jaguars occurs in the Amazon Basin of Brazil and Peru.
A jaguar's home range varies widely depending on its habitat, with smaller home ranges and higher densities often associated with the greatest availability of prey. Jaguars have a diverse diet that includes mammals, birds, and reptiles, but most frequently prey upon peccaries, armadillos, capybara, tapir, deer, and caiman.
Jaguars are solitary and females raise 1-4 cubs alone, which will stay with her for at least 2-3 years before finding their own territories. Habitat loss and hunting in retaliation for preying on livestock threaten to destabilize the population and social dynamics of jaguars across their range, and undermine the important role that jaguars play in maintaining healthy, functional ecosystems.