In 1996 I first read an article about a jaguar being spotted in southern Arizona. I was shocked to even know that such creatures were actually native to the region in the past. There have been occasional sightings in the southwest, particularly in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, but none had been confirmed in years. In the early 20th century, the jaguar’s range extended as far north as the Grand Canyon, and as far west as Southern California. The jaguar is a protected species in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, which has stopped the shooting of the animal for its pelt. In 1996 and from 2004 on, wildlife officials in Arizona photographed and documented jaguars in the southern part of the state. Between 2004 and 2007 two or three jaguars had been reported by researchers around Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona. One of them was called ‘Macho B’ and had been previously photographed in 1996 in the area. For any permanent population in the USA to thrive, protection from killing, an adequate prey base, and connectivity with Mexican populations are essential. In February of 2009 a 118 lb Jaguar was caught, radio-collared and released in an area southwest of Tucson, Arizona; this is farther north than had previously been expected and represents a sign that there may be a permanent breeding population of Jaguars within southern Arizona. It was later confirmed that the animal is indeed the same male individual (known as ‘Macho B’) that was photographed in 2004 and was the oldest known Jaguar in the wild (approximately 15 years old.) In March of 2009, Macho B was recaptured and euthanized after he was found to be suffering from kidney failure. (Other sources I found reported that the animal was illegally trapped and tragically killed by a contractor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, but that was simply hyperbole).
The historic range of the species included much of the southern half of the United States, and in the south extended much farther to cover most of the South American continent. In total, its northern range has receded 1,000 kilometers southward and its southern range 2,000 km northward. Ice Age fossils of the jaguar, dated between 40,000 and 11,500 years ago, have been discovered in the United States, including some at an important site as far north as Missouri.
The following is taken from a recent article by The Center For Biological Diversity:
Here’s something to be thankful for: For the first time since the death of jaguar Macho B three years ago, a jaguar has been spotted in the American wild. This past Saturday, a 200-pound animal was photographed in southern Arizona by a hunter after being treed by his dogs. (The hunter and dogs left the area afterward.) The Center for Biological Diversity’s legal work earned the jaguar a place on the endangered species list in 1997, but it wasn’t until last year — after more Center advocacy and nearly 20,000 emails from Center supporters — that the Obama administration pledged to protect “critical habitat” and draft a recovery plan for the species. With protected habitat, the jaguar should be able to roam safely in the Southwest again.
The Center for Biological Diversity mission:
We believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.
We want those who come after us to inherit a world where the wild is still alive.