Top Tips When Watching the Enigmatic Jaguar

One of our planet's most revered animals, the Jaguar is still shrouded in an aura of mystery for many. While afforded deity status by ancient cultures, and associated with raw power and prowess in our modern world, they have behavioural patterns and social structures like any other animal, and are an important conservation species. For those thinking of going on a Jaguar tour, a journey of discovery awaits. Learning more about these magnificent creatures can help you to understand their habits and relationship with their habitat, which in turn can help to enhance the experience of sightings. Read on for a guide to the animal's behaviour, and to glean some pointers about what to look for while on your Jaguar tour.

Hunting Habits

Jaguars are such successful hunters in part because of their powerful physiques and strong jaws, but also because they use almost every aspect of their habitat. 

Instead of avoiding water, as many other cats do, Jaguars will happily and capably swim in order to go after aquatic prey like fish, small turtles, and caimen. When hunting land mammals, such as Capybaras and tapirs, they have been known to climb trees in order to ambush their prey. This is one reason that while on a Jaguar tour it is often near water that individuals can be sighted, while keeping an eye on the trees can also yield results. They often kill with a single, powerful bite, which has contributed not only to their reputation as supremely effective predators but also to their name - derived from a Tupinamba (a native Amazonian language) name for them, 'Yaguar', meaning literally 'he that kills with one leap.' They are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active around dusk and dawn - a fact that has added to their mystique; in Mesoamerican cultures they were associated with night and the underworld.

Territory and Social Habits

One of the greatest challenges facing Jaguar tour organisers is the Jaguar's elusive nature, but with a good understanding of its relation to its habitat, sightings can be effectively optimised. The same challenge faces scientists and conservationists, meaning that the Jaguar still retains its ancient aura of mystery, at least in part. What is known is that they are solitary animals, marking out large territories for themselves with their waste or by leaving claw marks on trees. These range from 25 to 40 square kilometres for females, which sometimes overlap, and up to 80 for males, which may contain several female territories but will not overlap with other males - resulting in occasional fights if two males come into contact. Young Jaguars live with their mothers for the first few years of their lives, learning to hunt, before setting off to define their own territories.

Article Source: Marissa Ellis Snow

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