Jaguar and puma depredation on livestock may be influenced by (1) innate and learned behavior; (2) health and status of individual cats; (3) division of space and resources among jaguar and puma; (4) cattle husbandry practices; and (5) abundance and distribution of natural prey. Our study in Los Llanos of Venezuela aimed to establish how all these elements related to cattle being lost to cat depredation. Prey distribution was influenced by forest composition, topographical characteristics, and degree of habitat interspersion. The biomass of natural prey in the study area was adequate to support the resident large cats without a subsidy of livestock. Selective rather than opportunistic hunting by the cats reinforced that conclusion. Puma were responsible for more attacks on livestock than jaguar, frequently in maternity pastures in upland areas of relatively low prey availability. Management recommendations are discussed that may be relevant to other savanna/forest mosaics of South America. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.