Wildlife Advocates Encouraged by Southern Arizona Jaguar Sighting

TUCSON, Ariz. – Wildlife advocates say the pre-Thanksgiving sighting of an adult male jaguar in southern Arizona is an encouraging sign of the recovery of a species that once roamed as far north as the Grand Canyon. State officials used photos and videos taken by a hunter to confirm the sighting.

Craig Miller, Southwest representative with Defenders of Wildlife, says more sightings are inevitable because of jaguar recovery programs taking place in Mexico.

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Listen to this story featuring Defenders’ Craig Miller on Public News Service radio.

“There are encouraging conservation programs taking place in Sonora, just south of the border, to help these jaguars recover and to help ranchers and landowners learn how to live with them. Those populations are increasing.”

Federal managers in the U.S. are also developing a recovery plan. The last known jaguar spotting in the United States was nearly three years ago. A 15-year-old jaguar known as “Macho-B” was captured, fitted with a radio collar and then recaptured and euthanized 12 days later, when it was determined he suffered from kidney failure. The controversial actions led to state and federal investigations.

Miller says there is no reason jaguars can’t recover and thrive in the southwestern United States.

“There are abundant habitats in Arizona and New Mexico to host jaguars. What’s necessary is for our land managers to preserve the landscape in a way that allows jaguars and other forms of wildlife to move freely between core habitat areas.”

There is no reason jaguars can’t recover and thrive in the southwestern United States. – Craig Miller

Some in the conservation community have called for capturing the newly spotted jaguar and fitting it with a radio collar to track its movements. Miller says there are less invasive, lower-risk techniques to study the jaguar and its habitat.

“Jaguars in their northern range have suffered a 75-percent mortality related to capture and handling. I don’t believe trying to capture this animal and fit it with a radio collar would be a prudent approach. In some cases, research can get in the way of conservation.”

Miller says hunting, trapping and predator control are the main reasons jaguars disappeared from Arizona. But times have changed and Miller says he is now hopeful, due to better laws and a growing public interest in restoring jaguars to the border region.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service – AZ

3 Responses to “Wildlife Advocates Encouraged by Southern Arizona Jaguar Sighting”

  1. Susan

    This is inspiring news and I appreciate and congratulate the Sonoran restoration program for its successes.

    I also commend Mr. Miller for his insightful comments about research methods sometimes inhibiting conservation. While we all want to know where and how endangered animals are living, we must be cautious in our approach so that our intellectual curiosity doesn’t impede the recovery of species we’re attempting to preserve.

    Animals who have long been hunted and killed as predators have collective consciousness and cellular memories that generate survival fears around human tracking and encroachment on their territory, adding to their intrinsic fears of human predators. The cumulative effects can potentially compromise their overall health and ability to flourish and reproduce. This is particularly true of inherently elusive animals such as jaguars.

    Collaring animals is intrusive even when managed as discretely as possible. While the studies I’ve read revealed no observable effect on wildlife behaviors, since the collars hinder even the simple act of scratching or grooming their necks, one has to wonder. It seems to me that of even more importance is forcing them to live with a constant barrage of electromagnetic signal transmissions. While of probable lesser risk than sonar signaling is to sea mammals, still it seems this would be akin to not being able to remove or turn off a Bluetooth attached to one’s head. Surely it must have some effect on their central nervous systems.

  2. Muriel Servaege

    Great news! I deeply hope the jaguar can thrive in the southwestern United States. I just hope there is no awkward jaguar or poacher.

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