Jaguar | Endangered Species Series
Jaguar | 9x12 scratchboard
Black Panther | 11x14 scratchboard
Jaguar | Panthera onca
Height: 25-30in at shoulder
Lifespan: 12 years
Population: 15,000 in the wild
Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas. They range from Argentina in South America up to the Grand Canyon in the United States, though they have been almost completely eliminated from the northern most part of their range and are endangered in the remainder of it. They have compact bodies, a broad head and powerful jaws. Their coats vary in color from yellow and tan to reddish brown to black.
A “black panther” is not its own species, but an umbrella term that refers to any big cat with a black coat. The condition is caused by the agouti gene. This gene regulates the distribution of black pigment within the hair. The specific gene causing a black coat is most well known in leopards, which live in Asia and Africa, and jaguars, that reside in South America. (Fun fact: the agouti gene does not cause black fur in house cats.) Panthers may be black in color, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have spots like other leopards and jaguars. The spots are simply harder to see. When the light catches their coat in a certain way, you can see the spots very distinctly.
As a top-level carnivore, Jaguars help prevent overgrazing of vegetation by keeping prey populations in balance. They hunt deer, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, sloths, turtles, eggs, fish and anything else they can catch. They are also important in human culture, often taking key roles in stories, songs, and prayers.
Jaguars are solitary animals, hunting and living along, except during mating season. The male jaguar range is between 19 and 53 miles, often overlapping with the smaller ranges of various females. Males are very protective of their territory and females. They hunt mostly on the ground, but do sometimes climb trees to pounce on their prey from above. Unlike most other cats, jaguars love the water and often hunt for fish in pools and streams.
Mating occurs year round and female gestation is 90 to 110 days. Females will have one to 4 kittens and they stay with the mother for one to one and a half years.
Habitat loss due to human encroachment (development of infrastructure - farms, roads, mines, towns, etc) and the blocking of migration routes that segregate the population for mating.
Jaguars preying on livestock causes human intolerance and killings.
Poaching – jaguars are prized for their spotted coats.
Sources: Defenders of Wildlife, National Geographic
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