Jaguars live in both the Amazon rain forest and the Atlantic rain forest. These two forests extend throughout South and Central America. However, jaguars also range free in North America, all the way up to parts of Arizona and Texas, according to the Southern Kings Consolidated School.
Although jaguars thrive well in South America, there are also small populations in parts of Asia and Africa. Before human settlement, they ranged as far north as the Yukon and Iceland. Jaguars, once prominent in Native American cultures, are a threatened species in 2014. In the United States, they are protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act.
They are nearly extinct in the Atlantic rain forest because of an anomaly called fragmentation. Fragmentation occurs when the rain forest is broken up into smaller pieces due to farming, causing a loss of biodiversity that cannot sustain the jaguar population.
The Amazon Basin contains the largest population of jaguars, supporting even the rare black jaguar. However, even this population is under threat due to human activities. These cats are hunted for their gold and black fur, and because they kill livestock. Another danger is habitat loss due to deforestation.
Jaguars feed on a variety of animals, from rodents and birds to deer and tapirs. Because jaguars do not avoid water like other big cats, they can feed on marine life as well, such as fish and turtles.