Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 5, 2024

Contact:

Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713, rmcspadden@biologicaldiversity.org
Megan Southern, The Rewilding Institute, (520) 628-4318, tortuga@rewilding.org

Southern Arizona Jaguar Video Confirms New Cat

TUCSON, Ariz.— A wild jaguar shown in a recent trail camera video from southern Arizona is a new jaguar not previously identified in the state. The images captured last month by a wildlife enthusiast and analyzed by the Center for Biological Diversity confirm the eighth jaguar documented in the U.S. Southwest in the past three decades.

“Every new jaguar in Arizona is a moment to celebrate,” said Russ McSpadden, a Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “After being nearly wiped out these majestic felines continue to reestablish previously occupied territory despite border wall construction, new mines and other threats to their habitat. We’re extremely lucky to live near such magnificent creatures, and we’ve got to do everything we can to protect our shared landscape.”

The rosette pattern on each jaguar is unique, like a human fingerprint, and it enables identification of specific animals. The new video shows this jaguar is not Sombra or El Jefe, two jaguars who have roamed Arizona in recent years. Arizona jaguars are part of the species’ northern population, which includes the breeding population in Sonora, Mexico.

In 2023 a wild jaguar was photographed at least twice by federally run trail cameras in southern Arizona, but those photos were too blurry for its rosette pattern to be analyzed. It’s possible this latest jaguar detection is the same cat.

All the jaguars spotted in the Southwest over the last several decades have been male. It’s unclear from this latest video whether the jaguar is male or female.

“Whether male or female, this new jaguar is going to need a mate. Now is the time for us to have a serious conversation and take action to bring jaguars back,” said Megan Southern, jaguar recovery coordinator with The Rewilding Institute. “This new cat is just one of the many jaguars who should be roaming Arizona and New Mexico in a healthy population.”

Background
Jaguars are the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions. They once lived throughout the American Southwest, with historical records on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the mountains of Southern California and as far east as Louisiana. Jaguars virtually disappeared from this part of their range over the past 150 years, primarily due to habitat loss and historic government predator control programs intended to protect the livestock industry.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first protected jaguars as endangered in 1972, but in 1980 the Service removed jaguars from the endangered species list. In 1997, in response to a Center campaign, jaguars were again protected as endangered. In 2014 the Center secured more than 750,000 acres of federally protected critical habitat for U.S. jaguar recovery.

In December 2022 the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce jaguars in New Mexico and designate more critical habitat in New Mexico and Arizona.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Rewilding Institute advances continental-scale conservation in North America and beyond, particularly the need for large carnivores, protected wildways, and a permeable landscape for their movements.

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