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Jaguar (Panthera onca) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Central and South America

  • Current range greatly reduced
    • Southwestern U.S., Mexico, through Central America, into northern South America
      • Resident in numerous countries
        • Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States and Venezuela
      • Extinct within Chile, El Salvador, and Uruguay
      • Extirpated from Argentina, Costa Rica, and Panama
    • Historic range
      • Between 35 degrees north and south latitudes
      • Southwestern U.S. to Rio Negro in southern Argentina
      • Area c. 19.1 million sq. km. (7.4 million sq. miles)
        • Equivalent to twice the area of United States, including Alaska
    • Current range c. 63% of historic distribution
      • Of unknown status in c. 12% of former range; especially in Mexico, Columbia, and Brazil
      • Camera trapping: great potential for adding much new, more accurate population data
        • Presence or absence along to edges of historic ranges of particular interest
        • In Arizona (since 1996): photographs and tracks of four adult males and possible a fifth unidentified individual; scent marking behavior indicated residency
      • Much disagreement about importance of habitat for jaguars in southwestern U.S.
      • Jaguar researcher Rabinowitz (2010) argues best way to help jaguars is to support efforts of governments and conservation groups in Mexico, Central and South America


Prefer areas with dense cover

  • Cover necessary for stalking prey
  • Dense lowland and montane tropical rain forests
    • In South and Central America
  • Strong tie to regions with water
    • Present along rivers, around swamps and lagoons, and in seasonally flooded wetlands
  • Other habitats
    • Succulent and thorn scrub, temperate broadleaf forests, tropical monsoon and dry forests, tropical savannah woodlands
    • Dry grassland terrains of Argentina's pampas, Mexico, arid southwestern United States
    • Madrean evergreen woodland and semi desert scrub grasslands along U. S.- Mexico borderlands

Elevation range

  • 0-2,000 m (0-6,500 ft)
    • Rarely at the highest elevations
    • In Mexico, one 13 year-old male
      • Sonoran lowland desert at 877 m (2877 ft) to pine-oak woodlands at 1,577 m (5174 ft

Distribution Map

jaguar distribution map

Jaguar distribution.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN)

Page Citations

Channell et al. (2000)
Crawshaw et al (1991)
Nowell et al. (1996)
IUCN 2000 (2006)
McCain et al. (2008)
Sanderson et al. (2002)

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