Jaguars live in a variety of natural habitats, including rain forests, grasslands and mountain areas. Jaguars like to make their dens in places with softer ground and prefer dense rain forests; however, they can be found making their homes in swamps, under rock ledges or near bodies of water.
The jaguar once ranged from South America up to the southwestern United States. However, it currently lives mostly in South America and parts of Central America. It is also considered endangered in every part of its range. Small populations of jaguars remain in the United States as of the 2000s. One possibly breeding population lives south of Tucson, Arizona, while another roams the bootheel of New Mexico.
The jaguar enjoys living by water and often hunts water-dwelling animals such as fish, turtles and caimans. It often leaps into rivers in pursuit of prey. The jaguar hunts a wide variety of prey from deer to monkeys, capybaras, tapirs, birds and even livestock. It is known for being a stalking predator rather than a chasing one.
The jaguar's dappled coat helps disguise it in forests where the sunlight filters through trees, as it breaks up the animal's outline. Consequently, it is a very effective predator.