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Jaguar (Panthera onca) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding



  • Consume a variety of prey
    • Target c. 85 species
    • Only cat known to have a taste for reptiles
      • Compete with humans for edible turtles
  • Terrestrial mammals
    • Most common prey items
    • Preference for capybara, marsh deer, giant anteater, and red broket deer
    • Also consume tapir, marsh deer, peccary, and armadillo
  • Other prey items
    • Eat caiman (alligator), fish, turtles, iguana, anaconda, and birds
      • Consume whole turtles and tortoises
        • Larger turtle and tortoise shells broken with teeth or a paw is inserted between top (carapace) and bottom (plastron) and turtle's insides scooped out (without breaking the shell)
      • Caimen are killed by a crushing bite to neck
    • Occasionally take cattle
      • Studies suggest jaguars which target domestic animals often have gunshot wounds
      • Jaguars preyed on large grazers in the Pleistocene Epoch; feeding on cattle today may be their response to introduced equivalents of large prey that went extinct in North America 11,00O years ago (Polisar et al 2003)

Dietary intake

  • Daily consumption
    • Consume 1.2-1.5 kg/day (2.6-3.3 lb/day), estimate of wild jaguar feeding habits
      • Estimate for a jaguar weighing c. 34 kg (75 lb)
      • Larger bodied jaguars in Pantanal of Brazil require more food (and larger home ranges) than smaller jaguars elsewhere



  • Large mammals
    • Tend to eat the heart, liver, and spleen first
    • Do not typically consume the intestines


Jaguar and a bone

Eating a bone at the San Diego Zoo.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Azevedo & Murray (2007)
Crawshaw & Quigley (1991)
Emmons (1991)
Mondolfi & Hoogesteijn (1986)
Polisar et al (2003)
Seymour (1989)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002)

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