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A Fearsome Guide
by Lynn Wallace
06/25/11
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A Fearsome Guide
By Lynn Wallace

The jaguar crushes alligators for food. But it will lead men off its territory.

This mighty guide is the biggest cat of the Americas. The Creator only made two bigger cats: African lions and tigers.

It looks a lot like a leopard. Both have tawny coats with black circular markings, called rosettes. However, the jaguar is not only larger, but heavier and stockier. Its spots are also different, black dots being in some of them. No two jaguars have exactly the same coat pattern.

God designed this strong animal so that it can adapt to different places. Some live in tropical jungles, others in forests, and still others in grassy plains or even deserts. Its favorite habitat is dark, wet, tropical forests with a river or swamp. Some live in the mountains of Peru and Bolivia up to 8,860 feet elevation. In Mexico they live in desert regions.

These mighty cats rest a lot in the daytime. They do their hunting at night like most other wild cats. They sharpen their claws just as domestic cats do. They also display catlike behavior in grooming themselves with their long and rough tongues.

In captivity these big cats live up to twenty years. Their life span in the wild is about twenty-two years.

They travel alone, except for a mother cat with cubs. Old and young males travel over 100 square miles. Other jaguars stick to their own territory. However, if food is scarce, they may roam over an area of 200 square miles. One of these big cats wandered 500 miles to a new hunting location.

God gave it a strong, muscular body, enabling it to stalk its prey for miles when necessary. His excellent vision and hearing aid him in finding his prey. He supplied it with powerful jaws so that it can crush its prey.

It eats almost anything it can catch from mice to deer. Their menu includes armadillos, anteaters, opossums, iguanas, turtles, rodents, skunks, snakes, birds, various tropical animals and grass. These cats hide the carcass of large animals for later meals.

This animal will not range over open country to attack cattle. This powerful cat will attack at once any animal that strays into its territory. A jaguar with previous wounds may turn into a cattle-killing animal.

They used to range from the southern United States to the lower reaches of South America. Those in the United States live in Texas, California and Arizona. Now they are seldom seen north of Mexico.

Jaguars can climb trees and navigate streams. They hunt their prey in these places as well as on land.

Their tawny coats, spotted with black markings, blend in well with their surroundings. However, black jaguars are not uncommon, and a few are albinos. As they hunt at night, both the tawny and the black ones can scarcely be seen by their prey.

The male cats grow to the size of a man or giant, including their tail. (It may be as long as a yardstick.) Their muscular body weighs as much as an elephant or more. His neck is thick and his legs short and stout. His shoulder height is thirty inches or less. His mate is somewhat smaller and slyer.

A grown jaguar has few enemies other than man, but alligators and big snakes prey on the young. When they grow up, they eat these enemies. Because man prizes its exotic coat, the jaquar fears the hunter's gun.

The mother cat tries to protect her kittens from their enemies for two years. Her young are born with a heavy coat of fur and their eyes are shut. In South America the cubs may be born at any time. In the northern parts of its range they are born in the summer. The mother finds a shelter of bushes, rocks or trees for the birthplace of her babies.

She gives birth to one to four babies at a time. They feed on mother's milk and meat. Little jaguars at birth are about four times as big as baby gorillas. By six weeks of age they grow to the size of house cats.

These cubs' eyes open at about two weeks and they venture outside their dens for the first time. By six months the mother takes them on hunting trips. Several months later they begin hunting on their own. They start raising their own families when they are three years old.

Though this fearsome cat seldom attacks human beings, some jaguars have killed man. As with nearly any other animal, it will defend itself and its young if threatened. If this fearsome guide leads you off its territory, don't argue with it!



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