Call in the paparazzi-we’ve got a jaguar~
Among Nature's most supreme creations
What fires the imagination like the jaguar? Since pre-Columbian days the jaguar has been idolized for its magnificence. The largest cat in the Americas is the epitome of feline power, grace and beauty. The black rosettes studding the tawny coat are unique to each cat and camouflage stealthy pursuits. And although this is a jungle cat, with a core range in the tropics, two jaguar sightings have been reported in Southeast Arizona in the past six months. The first was in June when a US border patrol agent spied a jaguar from his helicopter in the Santa Rita Mountains. He said he saw a large spotted cat loping down a heavily forested hillside. No tracks or scat were located however. Then on November 19 a male jaguar was treed by hunting dogs in Cochise County. The hunter gained fame with his photographs of the big male and his story of the roaring cat who escaped without injury. Subsequently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $771,000 grant to the University of Arizona for a three year jaguar research program. The Wildcats will explore the presence of jaguars and other wildlife using 240 motion detecting cameras in 120 locations throughout the study area. In light of the 2009 illegal capture and radio collaring of a jaguar that resulted in the death of the animal, the research group has designed a program that ensures “no animals will be captured, radio collared, baited or bothered in anyway”. Rather, cameras will photograph both sides of each jaguar that comes into range, allowing identification of individuals by their rosette patterns. And, a scat detecting dog will lead researchers to droppings that yield amazingly detailed information by way of DNA. The DNA reveals diet, overall health and even migration routes. The study area stretches from I-10 to the Mexican border between the Boboquivari Mountains on the western edge to the Animas Mountains about 25 miles into New Mexico. There is a jaguar recovery program underway in Sonora Mexico and a breeding population of jaguars does exist south of the border. It is believed that the jaguars could establish a northern foothold in Southeastern Arizona and New Mexico as long as migratory corridors are established that allow movement between hunting territories. Hopefully this research will yield results before any action is taken on the proposed Rosemont open pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains. It is a tragic and ironic fact of life that healthy ecosystems must be weighed against a certain number of jobs and the demand for extractive resources. These natural environments will be required in full working order for future generations of healthy children and they should also support native wildlife like the exotic jaguar.
1990 The jaguar is declared extinct in the U.S.
1996 Two male jaguars documented in Arizona: Macho A and Macho B
1997 Jaguars are placed on the endangered species lists in an effort spearheaded by Tucson based Center for Biological Diversity
2009 Macho B dies after an illegal capture, radio collaring and release
2011 USFWS is under court order to develop a jaguar recovery program and to designate critical habitats for the cats