Jaguars are shy, reclusive animals that live in the grasslands, swamps and jungles of the Western Hemisphere. Once abundant in their natural habitat, jaguars are now a threatened species, and prefer to avoid contact with humans. Because jaguars are difficult to observe in the wild, most of the baby jaguar information that is known has been gathered from watching the behavior of these animals in captivity.
Jaguars do not have a set mating season, and can mate and reproduce at any time throughout the year. Baby jaguars, called cubs, are born into litters of one to four, and are helpless and blind at first. The cubs live with their mother for about two years.
Baby jaguars learn to hunt from their mother, who will bring weakened deer and other animals to the den so that the cubs can practice their hunting skills. The mortality rate for baby jaguars is very high, and many are eaten by the large anaconda snakes that also live in the rain forests and jungles. After the first two years of life with their mother and siblings, jaguars will go off on their own to find their own hunting territories.
Jaguars are either light tan or orange with dark spots or, less commonly, black with faint spots. Baby jaguars' colors are evident at birth, and their pigmentation helps to conceal and camouflage them from predators. Baby jaguars are small at birth but grow rapidly. Adult jaguars are between 4 and 6 feet long and weigh between 70 and 120 lbs. on average.
Jaguars are unique compared to most other cats in that they love to be near water and to swim. Much of their diet, including turtles, fish, crayfish and caimans, comes from the water. They also eat deer, tapir and birds.
Historically, jaguars were hunted for their fur, and although this practice is illegal in most countries, it continues. Zoos and animal conservation groups around the world are helping to combat jaguar hunting and preserve this unique species.