A New Jaguar Has Been Spotted In Arizona Marking The 8th Jaguar In The Southwest In 30 Years

Image from trail camera footage by: Jason Miller

The discovery of a wild Jaguar in southern Arizona in recent trail camera footage is welcome news for the species not previously identified in the state. The images captured last month by wildlife enthusiast Jason Miller 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 that 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 that this latest jaguar that has been detected is the same cat.

All of 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.”

According to the Center, jaguars once lived throughout South and Central America and the United States — where they evolved — but sadly lost their habitat and were killed off to near extinction north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected jaguars as endangered in 1972, but in 1980, responding to objections, the Service removed jaguars within the U.S. from the endangered species list — in blatant violation of the Endangered Species Act.

In 1997, in response to a Center campaign, jaguars were again protected as endangered. After that, the Center sued the Fish and Wildlife Service three times to win a recovery plan and critical habitat for the species. The agency finally designated critical habitat in 2014 and a recovery plan for jaguars in 2019.

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