America’s biggest cat will have to wait another year for habitat protections, federal wildlife officials said in a letter last month.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settled lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity to establish critical habitat for the jaguar and a separate challenge from Defenders seeking a recovery plan for the endangered cat.
But authorities say it will take another year to fully analyze potential habitat in the U.S., according to a Scientific American report. A critical habitat designation would help identify and protect the areas jaguars need to find food, shelter and possibly mates.
Habitat loss, population growth and over hunting have taken a heavy toll on these spotted felines.
Researchers think that the northern fringes of the jaguar’s range, in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, will become increasingly important to its survival as deforestation and development destroy habitat throughout Mexico, Central and South America.
Jaguars once widely roamed from South America across the Southwest to Texas. But habitat loss, population growth and over hunting have taken a heavy toll on these spotted felines.
By the mid-20th century, jaguars were all but exterminated in the U.S.
The Last One
Macho B—the last known jaguar to regularly prowl Arizona’s outback—was put down in March 2009 after the large male’s kidneys failed, a condition blamed, in part, on stress related to his capture.
Twelve days earlier, researchers found the 15-year-old cat with his front paw dangling in a snare that was meant for bears and cougars.
Few jaguars are seen crossing over the U.S.-Mexico border, where the 670-mile-long border wall threatens migration corridors linking habitats in both countries.
Researchers had hoped that Macho B would teach them more about jaguar movements. He was tranquilized, collared with a radio tracking device and then set free.
But instead of insight, the radio broadcasted trouble, showing that Macho B’s movements had become slow and irregular.
Tests later revealed that his kidneys were failing so severely that he would not recover. And Arizona’s last known wild jaguar was euthanized at the Phoenix Zoo.