This nearly threatened species often poses the question of, “What do jaguars eat?” Are they becoming extinct because of their regal beauty and being hunted by man or is it the fact that they are suffering from a loss of habitat and depleted food sources?
Jaguars prefer to live near water since they are exceptional swimmers and are quite capable of killing smaller crocodiles and other water dwelling creatures for food. When away from water, they love to be in dense and thick forests but have been known to live comfortably in grasslands. The dense forest however, is ideal for them to stalk their prey.
These large felines are very fond of meat and have a high preference for large prey. So, what do jaguars eat exactly? Their food palette is quite diverse and can include mice, fish, dogs, foxes, armadillos, horses, birds, tapirs, turtles, sloths, rodents, frogs, reptiles, deer and monkeys. Additionally, they will prey on livestock when their habitat doesn't supply adequate amounts of food for them. Jaguars prefer to hunt though so livestock is not a challenge for them and only chosen out of desperation.
Most large cats are known for attacking their prey at the neck but jaguars do not practice this technique. Occipital crunchers is what they are called, meaning they kill their prey by biting the back of its head with their canines and piercing the brain. They will also at times, jump on their prey, sever the cervical vertebrae and then take advantage of the immobilized target. They are extremely intelligent animals. The jaguar's teeth are powerful enough to puncture through a shell of an armored species like the turtle or armadillo.
Jaguars prefer the stalking approach over the chase. They are incredibly quiet and will sneak up in a blind spot of their target and pounce. They have the ability to kill while they are swimming and they are strong enough to carry an animal as large as a heifer up a tree by pulling it with its jaw.
After the jaguar has killed its prey, it drags the dead carcass to a secluded area and always feasts on the chest area first, beginning with the lungs and heart. Despite their reputation, jaguars will rarely attack humans unless they are wounded or very old.
The jaguar is a magnificent and muscular animal. Males have been recorded to top out the scale at 350 pounds yet there are smaller ones that weigh only 80 pounds. Their limb structure is stocky and short which makes them masters at climbing, swimming and crawling. Their jaw is hauntingly powerful and they have the strongest bite in their family.
Generally their coat is a tawny yellow shade but there are variations of black and reddish brown. Melanism is known to occur in approximately six percent of the jaguar population. This is characterized as the animal appearing all black however, under close examination, spots are visible. These Melanistic jaguars commonly go by the name of black panthers but they are all considered the same species. Albino jaguars are found from time to time also and these exquisite creatures are called white panthers.
The jaguar and leopard are often confused but can be distinguished apart by their rosettes, or spots. The jaguar's spots are lager, darker and often have thicker lines around small spots. Jaguars have a more rounded head and much stockier limbs as well.
These captivating creatures are a threatened species and decreasing in population. Although they are illegal to hunt, unfortunately it is still an issue. The jaguar is another example of man destroying one of the most beautiful animals on the planet.