Arizona wildlife officials confirmed that the big cat a hunter had cornered in a tree last weekend was an endangered jaguar.
The sighting is the first since March 2009 when the last known jaguar to regularly prowl the U.S. Southwest, Macho B, fell ill and was put down 12 days after being captured and radio collared.
“The sighting is great news,” says Defenders’ Southwest program director Eva Sargent. “Jaguars are returning to their old haunts in the Southwestern United States. These males are like scouts, or pioneers. And while no females have been confirmed yet, that doesn’t mean they aren’t here, or won’t be here soon. It will be very important to protect the wild corridors they are using for travel, and those lands they need to thrive.”
After photographing the 200-pound male, the hunter backed his pack of dogs away and allowed the jaguar to escape, the Arizona Daily Star reported on Tuesday.
Biologists will study the new photographs comparing the cat’s spots, or rosettes, with other jaguars documented in the region to determine whether he has previously been caught on camera in Arizona.