It was close, really close, and angled toward me, apparently not noticing my presence as it approached slowly across the clearing. I stood absolutely still and had time to admire the intricately spotted fur, long tail, rippling body, and even the sharp feline teeth exposed in a slight grin across the blocky head. The animal was the size of a very large dog but much stockier, and had a relaxed, muscular gait. When it was within 25 feet, just a few steps away, I began to inch my hand inside my pocket to retrieve my camera. The slight movement finally caught the Jaguar’s attention and it looked up, locked eyes on mine, and froze.
There followed a few slow beats of absolute silence as we both began to comprehend the encounter. I realized how utterly alone I was, more than an hour’s hike from the station, off-trail in the rainforest without any means of communication, face to face with the king of the jungle. My adrenaline finally kicked into gear. I wondered what the cat was thinking.
According to camera trap data, Tiputini has one of the highest densities of Jaguars in the world (estimated at 22 per 100 square kilometers). Hardly a day goes by when we don’t talk about them. They’re usually the most-wanted animal for visitors to Tiputini but are very rarely seen; in the last two months since I arrived, only one other person has encountered one. I’m extremely lucky to have seen one so well, and on such intimate terms – many sightings are fleeting glimpses or from boats on the river.
Guess it’s been a good year for cats. I ran into two different Mountain Lions while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last summer, and found a Margay here at Tiputini last month. What could be next?
Holy cats, Noah! You are a magnet, and you must handle these encounters just right to get such good looks and to hike away afterward! Great description of the Jag….thanks for allowing me to be along!
That is so exciting. Big cats are pretty sweet. I bet it got your adrenaline pumping.
Wow – two cats, a bot fly, and 233 species on a big day! It sounds like Tiputini is living up to its reputation! I’ve a little green and it’s not because I live in Duckville. Hope the rest of your stay is as exciting.
Hi Noah, I have been enjoying your postings from Tiputini. It is pretty fortunate for you and exciting to see the jaguar.! It’s a good thing you did not surprise the kitty as it doesn’t sound like you had a lot of options had it decided to spring your way!
Wow, Noah!! I think the extent of my jealousy regarding your jaguar encounter could be summed up as follows: if I were to have a comparable jaguar sighting (similar in setting and in duration of viewing), that would be the highlight of, no, not my year, but my life!
As to what’s next, I’m sure, based on your history of wild cat magnetism, you’ll have a grand slam of every feline species possible there, before you leave. Ocelot? Jaguarundi? Little spotted cat (Felis tigrina)? Pampas cat? Are all four of those species possible, at Tiputini? Of course, you’ll also have to see another puma, too.
Wow!!!! Congrats!!! That sounded like a great encounter – glad it decided you were not something to closely investigate! Our Jag was swimming fast and running even faster when it hit land! Have you stopped shaking yet?
Fantastic, Noah! Thanks so much for sharing!
ouch!! did that hurt at all? and is your back still swollen?
Totally amazing experience. You are among a select few that have had such an encounter.