Jaguar female. Photo by Charles Sharp Photography.
Female jaguar. Image: Charles Sharp Photography.

In the United States, mountain lions and bobcats are currently the biggest felines around; but there was once a different big cat that ruled the American Southwest — the jaguar.

If you’ve watched a few nature documentaries, you’ve probably seen jaguars prowling through Central and South American rainforests and rivers. But you’d probably never expect to see them in the Arizona forests and deserts. Yet, in the past couple decades, jaguar sightings in Arizona have been increasing.

Recently, a jaguar was sighted 60 miles north of the U.S.- Mexico border in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in Cochise County, Arizona. A Bureau of Land Management trail camera photographed the big cat on November 16, 2016 but the footage was only recently retrieved.

Jaguars have been sighted in Arizona before, but five Arizona Game and Fish Department scientists carefully and independently examined this jaguar’s spot patterns and concluded that it is actually a new individual. This is the third individual jaguar seen in Arizona since 2012, and it might suggest the final return of the species to the United States after a hunter killed the last known female in 1963.

In an earlier sighting in February 2016, a different jaguar was filmed by the Center for Biological Diversity in the Santa Rita Mountains — just 25 miles outside of downtown Tucson, Arizona. Below, you can view the footage of this male jaguar named “El Jefe”. Unlike the other two jaguars, which might be transient, El Jefe has been sighted multiple times in Arizona and is the only jaguar known to permanently reside in the United States.

So, with jaguars sightings on the rise, we may be seeing more American jaguars in the future; but that all depends on whether or not female jaguars also become permanent residents. With Mexican border security also on the rise, the return of the jaguar may come to an early end.

Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity released new video today of the only known wild jaguar currently in the United States.Captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside of Tucson, the dramatic footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature’s most majestic and charismatic creatures. This is the first-ever publicly released video of the #jaguar, recently named 'El Jefe' by Tucson students, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation. Learn more here: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2016/jaguar-02-03-2016.html

Posted by Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, February 3, 2016