What Is a Jaguar and What Is Its Habitat?
The jaguar is grouped along with lions and tigers with the big, or roaring, cats and is the only such cat in the Western Hemisphere. Many ancient American cultures such as the Maya and Aztec, featured the jaguar in their mythologies, it was often regarded as a symbol of strength.
Jaguar, the largest of the American wild cats, ranges from the southern United States of America to Argentina. The jaguar is virtually extinct in the northern part of its original range and survives in reduced numbers only in remote areas of Central and South America; the largest known population exists in the Amazon rainforest.
Typical coloration is orange to tan, with black spots arranged in rosettes with a black spot in the centre. Its coat is spotted but, unlike the leopard’s spotted fur, the jaguar’s coat has a central spots inside each group or rosette of spots. The male jaguar, which is generally larger than the female, attains a length of 1.7–2.7 metres (5.6–9 feet), including the 0.6–0.9-metre (2–3-foot) tail, with a shoulder height of 0.7–0.8 metre (2.3–2.6 feet); it weighs from 100 to 160 kg (220 to 350 pounds). The jaguars of South America are largest.
Jaguars habitat is dense lowland rainforests where it is humid and damp usually swamps and wooded regions. This could be due to preference and shy nature, or it could be because dry habitats have been rapidly developed in its range. They avoid open grasslands and seasonally dry forests. The jaguar is a very adaptable cat. It lives in deserts, mountains, and plains as well as the rain forest. During flood conditions, a jaguar can live arboreally in the trees for an extended period of time.
A solitary predator, Jaguars are swift and agile and are very good climbers. They enter water freely and appear to enjoy bathing. Although active during the day, jaguars hunt mainly at night and on the ground. The cat is a savage fighter when cornered but does not normally attack humans.
Jaguars adhere to a land tenure system much like cougars and tigers. Females establish overlapping home ranges, and female offspring may inherit land from their mothers. Males establish territories twice as large as females and overlap the ranges of several females. Both sexes mark their ranges with urine.
Northern populations mate toward the end of the year, but in the tropics mating activity seems not to be restricted to a particular breeding season. After a gestation period of about 100 days, the female bears one to four tiny spotted cubs weighing 100–900 grams (less than 2 pounds) that do not open their eyes for 13 days. The mother raises the young for approximately two years. Full size and sexual maturity are reached at three to four years. Jaguars live in the wild for 11-15 years, in captivity they can live over 20 years.