What Do Jaguars Eat?

Jaguar in the wild.
Jaguar in the wild.

The jaguar is scientifically known as Panthera onca. It is popular in the world for its ferociousness, as well as its beautiful skin which resembles that of a leopard. The all-black-skinned jaguar commonly referred to as black panther is quite rare. Jaguars are the largest cats in South America. However, they are the 3rd largest cat in the world after the lion and leopard. Jaguars often inhabit thick forests where they can hide away easily during the day and come out in the night. Their range includes most of North America (US and Mexico), Central and South America; especially within the Amazon basin. Jaguars are apex predators in their ecosystem. They are top carnivores with a wide prey base.

Feeding Habits Of The Jaguar

Jaguars are unique cats as they hunt a variety of prey for food. Some of these prey are terrestrial while others live in water. In total, jaguars feed on 80 to 85 species of animals. Examples of the prey are snails, capybara, armadillos, deer, peccaries, birds, tapir, squirrels, monkeys, sloths, rodents, and frogs. Some of the prey that the jaguar hunts in the water are turtles, fish, young caiman, and small crocodiles. From this list of prey, it is evident that the jaguars are fond of meat. Although the jaguars are not typically man-eaters, they will hunt down a human when they feel threatened by them. To maintain a healthy weight, the jaguar’s daily food intake is approximately 1.2 to 1.5 kg for those that live in the wild.

Adaptations Of The Jaguar For Feeding

One of the adaptations of the jaguar to its feeding habits is that it inhabits dense forests which usually provide great cover for an ambush on the prey. Secondly, jaguars mostly hunt in the night which is made possible by their excellent night vision. Thirdly, jaguars are carnivores with sharp and powerful teeth that are capable of crushing a prey’s skull or even the hard turtle shells. They are famous for mostly killing their prey with only one bite. Fourthly, a hunting tactic used by the jaguar is that of stealthily monitoring their prey and then pouncing on them. Once they catch the prey, the jaguar holds the prey’s throat with its jaw until the animal suffocates. Sometimes, they pierce the brain and skull of the prey or the ears to render it immobile. When they are sure that the prey is dead, they drag it to a secluded area where they can feast on it. Lastly, jaguars are relatively good swimmers which makes it possible for them to catch prey in the water

Conservation Efforts

The IUCN Red List categorizes the jaguar under the Near Threatened species. The reason for this is that the jaguars are hunted for their beautiful skin and also killed by humans whenever they attack their livestock. Nonetheless, there about 15,000 jaguars existing in the wild today. With the hunting for fur significantly reduced, scientists believe that there is hope for the jaguars in the future. However, habitat loss must also stop to save this species.


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