Can Jaguars Climb Trees?

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Published: April 15, 2023
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Jaguars are some of the largest wild cats in the world. They are fascinating and fierce. These large animals are also some of the fastest animals in the world, but can jaguars climb trees?

Follow along to learn more about these fearless wild cats and their climbing abilities. The answer may surprise you!

About Jaguars

Jaguars are large wild cats with a heavy appetite. They have beautiful appearances and are sometimes mistaken for cheetahs. Although jaguars and cheetahs may look alike, they live in different parts of the world. Jaguars are also a lot stronger and larger than cheetahs. These large animals aren’t afraid to take down prey larger than their size!

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Types of Jaguar cats - leopard
Jaguars are sometimes mistaken for cheetahs because of their similar patterns, however, jaguars are larger and stronger.


Distribution and Habitat

Jaguars are native to the Americas, however, there have been no recent jaguar recordings in the United States. Although this is true, during the 19th century, these large cats inhabited the North Platte River in Colorado and coastal Louisiana. While jaguars are no longer found in the United States, their range stretches from Mexico through Central America to South America. They are very present in Brazil, but you can find them in other countries, including Belize, Panama, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Some of the only recent sightings of jaguars in the United States occurred between 2012 and 2015. One jaguar was recorded in 23 places within the Santa Rita Mountains. Although rare, they are sometimes also spotted in Texas and New Mexico.

Jaguars live in many habitats including deciduous forests, wetlands, cloud forests, and dry grasslands. In the United States, they previously lived in oak forests.

Animals in South America
Jaguars live in many habitats like deciduous forests, wetlands, cloud forests, and dry grasslands.


Size and Appearance

Jaguars are massive animals! They are the largest native wild cat in the Americas. These stunning cats are about 26.8 to 29.5 inches tall at the shoulders. However, while most jaguars are this size, there is a lot of variation based on region and sex. For instance, while most jaguars weigh between 123 to 212 pounds, experts have recorded males weighing as much as 348 pounds. Interestingly, some of the smallest female jaguars can weigh as little as 79 pounds. Smaller jaguars typically live in northern parts of South America. For example, jaguars in Venezuela and Brazil, are generally larger than jaguars in Mexico.

These apex predators are easy to spot because of their unique coats. Although it’s not easy to notice, there is some color variation. However, most jaguars are pale yellow to tan or reddish-yellow. They also have whitish undersides and are covered in black spots. The spots vary in size but are heavier on their legs and faces. The patterns serve as camouflage which they use to hide as they stalk their prey. Jaguars in forests have darker coats than those living in open areas.

Although not as common, melanistic jaguars also exist. Black jaguars have excess black pigments. They are also called black panthers, but the name black panther also refers to black leopards. So, why do some jaguars have black coats? A dominant allele causes this color variation. Although black jaguars are black instead of yellow or red, they still have spots. Black jaguars are very rare. Only about 11% of all jaguars are born with this coloration.

Types of Jaguar - black panther
Black jaguars have thick black coats with unique spots called rosettes.

©AB Photographie/


Jaguars are apex predators. They are on top of the food chain for a reason. These large animals are obligate carnivores. Interestingly, they rely on flesh for their nutrient requirements. Jaguars aren’t afraid to take down large animals their size. Their prey can weigh between 2.2 to 286.6 pounds. Jaguars stalk and ambush their prey. They slowly move through their territory, listening carefully. These large animals stay hidden until they pounce from their prey’s blind spot.

Some animals in their diet include:

  • Giant anteaters
  • Capybaras
  • Caimans
  • Turtles
  • Marsh Deer
  • Collared anteaters
  • Tourtoises

Are Jaguars Able to Climb Trees?

Now that we know a little more about these amazing large cats, we can dive into if they climb. Yes, jaguars climb trees and they are very good at it! Although jaguars spend most of their time on the ground, they climb trees to hunt or sleep. It’s not uncommon to see these apex predators climbing and creeping on the lower branches of a tree while waiting for their prey. They use their quick speed and strength to climb. Jaguars are fast animals and can sprint at speeds of up to 50 mph.

Fastest Cats - Jaguar
Jaguars are great climbers and climb on trees to rest or attack their prey.


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About the Author

I have been a professional content writer for 6 years now, with a large focus on nature, gardening, food, and animals. I graduated from college with an A.A, but I am still pursuing a Bachelors of Marketing degree. When I am not writing, you can find me in front of my TV with a blanket, snacks, and my fur babies.

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