Jaguars are predators found in South America, from Arizona to the Rainforests of Brazil. They are commonly found in rainforests as this is their natural environment. Jaguars are the third biggest cat in the world. They can reach a height of almost 3 feet. They have very sharp teeth, claws and powerful jaws.
There are different subspecies of jaguars. The spotted jaguar have roset like spots unlike leopards, who live in Africa and Asia. Jaguar’s spots are more defined and usually there is a black spot in the middle of the roset. The black jaguar is black in colour and has faded rosettes.
Jaguars, unlike other cats, like water and they are very good swimmers, making them even more fierce than other cats.
Jaguars are carnivore predators and have a wide variety of foods they eat. Jaguars, in their natural environment, feed on land animals like sloths, tapir’s, peccaries, capybaras, lizards and even eggs. As they are very good swimmers they also feed on fish, turtles and caimans. As their natural habitat is declining they will also prey on cattle.
They are nocturnal hunters and ambush their prey and sink their strong jaws into the prey’s head and then suffocate them by closing off the windpipe. Although they are mainly nocturnal hunters they will also hunt during the day when an opportunity presents itself.
Jaguars prefer smaller prey, as the danger in hurting themselves when hunting big prey might end up with severe consequences.
Tapir’s, sloths,capybaras and peccaries are usually ambushed at night when they are more vulnerable. Sometimes their prey is dragged into a tree or into a hiding place for feeding and safekeeping.
Unlike other cats, jaguars are very good swimmers and will feed on fish, water turtles and even caiman and crocodiles. Caiman and crocodiles are fierce predators but the element of surprise is on the jaguars side which makes it possible for them to catch this type of prey. After sinking their strong jaws into the prey’s head they drag them from the water and feast on the kill.
Jaguars will feed on almost anything that is available and when a nest full of eggs is discovered they will feed on eggs. Feeding on eggs is effortless and if they are weak and are unable to kill prey, the eggs will supply them with much needed nutrients to save them from starvation.
Jaguars do not naturally feed on cattle but since their natural habitat is quickly declining and humans farm with cattle, they are forced to prey on livestock to survive as their natural prey’s numbers are declining quickly.
Jaguars rescued from hunters and poachers are placed into captivity at zoos or in rehabilitation centres with closed environments. In captivity jaguars are sometimes fed daily or every second day. They can eat up to 50 pounds of meat in one sitting. If they are fed daily they eat less.
Baby jaguars are born blind and helpless and will drink from their mothers for the first few months. Jaguar cubs stay with their mothers in a den for the first two years of their life and she teaches them hunting skills. The mother jaguar will bring back small weakened deer and other animals to teach cubs hunting skills.
After two years the young jaguars will leave the den and start to hunt independently. The mortality rate of jaguar cubs is very high because they are easy prey for various other predators and even anacondas.
Jaguars in the wild eat a wide variety of foods. They hunt their prey down by ambussing them at night like tapir’s, monkeys and peccaries. They can also hunt prey in the water as they are very good swimmers, they will also hunt fish, water turtles and caiman. Jaguars will also feed on small prey like lizards, snakes, birds and even eggs if they come across any.
As jaguars are carnivores they are fed meat in captivity. The meat they naturally eat is not always available in the environment they are kept in. They are fed meat of species that are readily available in the area of captivity. They are also sometimes fed fish and eggs as it forms a part of their natural diet.
Jaguars eat about 50 pounds per day. If they caught a big deer they would drag it into a tree or hide it. They will feed on a big deer for a few days. Unlike other cats, who start to feed at the midsection of the prey, jaguars start at feeding at the neck of the prey and move down to the chest and then the midsection. When they feed regularly they consume less food at once.
Depending on the availability of food they will feed more continuously if possible. When food is scarce or they are still young and do not yet have the expert hunting techniques they will quickly lose condition and even starve if they do not eat regularly. They have to eat daily on small prey like fish, lizards, snakes and eggs if food is limited but they can fast for several days in between large meals.
There are no confirmed cases of humans being eaten by jaguars. Like any other animal; if they feel threatened they will attack. But if they are left in peace they hold no threat to humans. Jaguars in captivity have attacked their handlers but in general, humans are not part of their diets. In recent years humans were attacked by jaguars because their natural habitat and environment is threatened. Mothers are very protective if they have cubs and if humans bother them they can be very dangerous and will attack a human.
Yes, jaguars eat crocodiles and caiman. Jaguars are very good swimmers and are just as deadly in water as they are on land. They will ambush the crocodile and bite it on the head to kill it. Their vicious jaws break the skull of the crocodile and it dies within moments. Jaguars are the only cats that will ambush a crocodile in the water.
Recent research showed that some parts of the north Pantanal, where there is a lot of gold mining, the mercury levels in tranquilized jaguars was quite high, but it could not be confirmed if the levels are high enough to be lethal to jaguars. Since jaguars numbers are declining very quickly this could be a great problem should the mercury levels rise and proof to be lethal to jaguars.