Spotted: Another Wild Jaguar in the Southwest
By Aimee Kincaid, Project Manager
Part of Jaguar’s staff contribution series
Jaguars, the largest native feline in the Americas, may be making a comeback in the United States. El Jefe, so named in honor of his southernmost approach by conservationists, was “spotted” early in 2016 near the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona—the first jaguar sighting in the region in more than six years! For months afterward, it was believed that El Jefe was the sole jaguar in the United States living outside of captivity.
In December 2016, a second jaguar was captured* by a trail camera in Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains, and Twitter quickly erupted into a frenzy of #HowManyJags in a web-wide game of match-the-spots-on-the-jaguar. To everyone’s excitement, Tweeters identified a unique diamond-eye pattern that sparked celebrations over the newest genus Panthera resident in the United States. Preliminary indications are that the newest jaguar is also a male, so even if the two jaguars crossed paths, no new kittens could boost the resident population. So, until a she-cat makes the journey north from the neighboring population in Sonora, Mexico, the US population of wild jaguars consists entirely of bachelors.
The Washington post pointed out that the President’s proposed wall, “could disrupt cross-border migration of wildlife, including El Jefe and his fellow jaguars.” Migratory jaguars would be stopped at the southern border until, at least, they could learn to scale walls. A wall preventing migration means that El Jefe wouldn’t be able to meet a potential mate unless a female was released from a local conservatory.
Locals have their fingers crossed that more jaguars will migrate north, make their home amidst conservationist-minded Americans, and new spotted kittens will boost the native jaguar population in the United States.
*Automated camera photos of jaguars and ocelots in southern Arizona are posted on the US Fish & Wildlife Service Southwest Flickr PAGE at http://bit.ly/TapYhK.