Exceptionally rarely jaguars attack humans but have any humans been killed?

I’ve been digging around the Internet looking for information about jaguars attacking humans and even killing them. There is no doubt that it is exceptionally rare for a jaguar to attack a human and I have not yet found an instance of a jaguar killing a human. Please contribute by commenting. The jaguar is the third largest cat species behind the tiger (biggest) and lion. The jaguar has the strongest bite of all the cats.

Jaguar cat
Jaguar. Image: MikeB (Canva under license).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Below are some examples of jaguars attacking humans.

Attacks by jaguars on humans in midwestern Brazil were the subject of a study. In one example, which occurred in May 2007, a 40-year-old male Aweti Indian was attacked non-fatally. The man was travelling through woods on the shores of Lake Ipawu in the Upper Xingu Indian Reserve.

He was travelling to a plantation in the early morning accompanied by two dogs. The dogs threatened a jaguar which was just off the trail and about 30 metres from his village. The jaguar felt cornered by the dogs and jumped down from a tree to attack them. I don’t have full details about the attack on the man but it is described as non-fatal. It is said that the man struck the jaguar’s face and a passerby helped I presume to scare the cat away.

In a second case, also a non-fatal attack, a jaguar held a young man’s head in its fangs. Once again, I don’t have full details but it was non-fatal. There was third non-fatal attack included in the survey without details.

In 2019 a jaguar attacked a female zookeeper in Brazil during a public feeding. She suffered arm injuries and was taken to hospital.

In 2015, a man in Belize was trying to get a selfie with a jaguar when the animal attacked him and he, too, sustained arm injuries and injuries to his head but they were non-fatal.

And in 2008, a jaguar attacked another zookeeper at a wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. The zookeeper had entered the cat’s enclosure alone.

In 2017, a jaguar attacked a man in Mexico who had crossed over a safety barrier at a zoo. He wanted a selfie photograph and as he approached the jaguar the cat attacked him. The incident was captured on video and the man suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

There are non-specific reports of the occasional human-jaguar conflict in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest where there are human settlements which encroach upon the jaguar’s territory. The cat might attack defensively as they feel threatened or humans inadvertently come across a jaguar where once again the animal might feel threatened. These are rare instances.

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It is reported that sometimes jaguars regard people engaged in sport hunting as competitors for prey and they may attack them as competitors or in self-defence having felt threatened.

Once again these are highly infrequent and the vast majority of encounters between humans and jaguars pass without incident.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I have not seen a report of a jaguar attacking and killing a man and then eating that man as a prey animal. Humans are not prey animals for the jaguar and they steer clear.

This is very much in line with a wild cat species which is very similar to the jaguar namely the common leopard. In many places they confine their activities to night time to avoid people. It appears that many wild animals instinctively avoid humans knowing that they are the top predator and dangerous.

This was confirmed and highlighted in a recent study in which human voices were played on speakers at a waterhole in Africa. The observations confirm that all animals no matter how iconic or dominant, act submissively to humans and they ran away when they heard a human voice. Click this link to read the article.

Study referred to: Attacks by Jaguars (Panthera onca) on Humans in Central Brazil: Report of Three Cases, with Observation of a Death.

Please search using the search box at the top of the site. You are bound to find what you are looking for.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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