The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas.

As a top-level carnivore, the big cat helps maintain a diversity of species by regulating prey numbers and competing with other, smaller carnivores. Jaguars are also important in human culture, frequently playing a central role in stories, songs and prayers of indigenous people.

Yet today, jaguars have been almost eliminated from the United States and populations in Central and South America are falling because of habitat destruction, trophy hunting and conflict with humans. For jaguars to make a comeback in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must revise its recovery plan  to support the restoration of jaguars to the full array of ecological settings that they occupied before they were eradicated.  

Defenders' Impact

Defenders played a key role in helping establish the Northern Jaguar Reserve in Sonora, Mexico, to protect the northernmost remaining jaguar population.

Defenders is advocating that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopt more meaningful recovery criteria to help the jaguars recover in a greater portion of their range in the American Southwest. That includes evaluating all potential jaguar habitat in its historic range, including north of Interstate 10.

Defenders is advancing innovative, community-based non-lethal methods for lessening human-carnivore conflict, such as the use of range riders and fladry, some of which techniques may work for jaguars.

We are also vigorously fighting the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico that would block jaguar migration between the two counties and viable habitat.

At the international level, Defenders is advocating for international policy measures that will enforce the international ban on the trade of jaguars and jaguar parts and products. Defenders provides ongoing support for Latin American countries to fight the illegal trade and is a sponsor of the first range states jaguar workshop in Bolivia in 2019.   

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Jaguars are being killed because of perceived conflicts with livestock and overhunted for trophies and as a substitute for tiger bones in Asia. Habitat loss is also a big problem for the northern population and the U.S.-Mexico border wall threatens to block jaguar migration routes.

Protection Status
Endangered Species Act
IUCN Red List
 Near Threatened
 Appendix I
What You Can Do

Raise your voice in opposition against the border wall, which will cut off the jaguar population from habitat in the Southwest. Buy responsibly when looking to purchase products – avoid palm oil and threatened rainforest woods, buy shade grown coffee and sustainable cocoa, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Latin Name
Panthera onca
25-30 inches at the shoulder, 80-200 pounds
12 years

The jaguar once roamed from Argentina in South America all the way up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States and are endangered throughout their range, which stretches down to Patagonia in South America. The jaguar makes its home in a wide-variety of habitats including deciduous forests, rainforests, swamps, pampas grasslands and mountain scrub areas.  Because they are habitat generalists, they can thrive almost anywhere there is food and they’re not persecuted. 


The total population of jaguars in the Americas is approximately 64,000.  There are 34 jaguar subpopulations, 25 of which are threatened and eight of which are in danger of extinction.


Jaguars are solitary animals and live and hunt alone, except during mating season. The jaguar hunts mostly on the ground, but it sometimes climbs a tree and pounces on its prey from above. Unlike most big cats, the jaguar loves the water.


Kittens stay with their mother from 1-1.5 years.
Mating Season: Occurs year-round
Gestation: 90-110 days
Litter size: 1-4 kittens


Jaguars are known to eat deer, peccary, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, deer, sloths, tapirs, turtles, eggs, frogs, fish and anything else they can catch.


Jaguar resting on bank of river
Washington, DC

Now is the Time to Think about Reintroducing Jaguars into the U.S.

A group of scientists say now is the time to talk about reintroducing jaguars (Panthera onca) into the U.S.

Wildlife and Wild Places

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