Jaguar, © David Stein

Corridors for Jaguars

Picture a sleek jaguar tracking a deer through the forest, camouflaged by large spots on its coat (called rosettes) that mimic the dappled sunlight streaming through the trees. Native to North and South America, jaguars are one of the most powerful big cats on the planet. Yet significant habitat loss and fragmentation threaten the survival of these beautiful predators in the southwestern United States.

Jaguars are the largest cat in North and South America and the third-largest in the world after lions and tigers. On average, jaguars weigh 120 to 200 lbs. and the males can tip the scales at a whopping 300 lbs. At four to six feet long (not including the tail) and about three feet tall, jaguars are solid, stocky and powerful. Jaguars are solitary apex predators, putting them at the top of the food chain, where they play an important role in stabilizing the ecosystem.

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Jaguar, © Northern Jaguar Project

For jaguars to establish new populations in the U.S., the cats must be able to travel safely across the border from their range in Mexico, and through southern Arizona and New Mexico. Protecting these vital migratory corridors is essential to jaguar conservation. After decades of working to support jaguar recovery and advocating for greater protections, Defenders and other conservation groups succeeded in getting the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate 764,207 acres (1,194 square miles) of much-needed jaguar critical habitat in Arizona and New Mexico, which the agency finalized in March 2014. However, a recent lawsuit could strip much of these habitat protections for jaguars in New Mexico. A coalition of New Mexico ranching interest groups filed a lawsuit challenging 51,400 acres of critical habitat in the Peloncillo Mountains and 7,714 acres in the San Luis Mountains. Removing such large swaths of protected habitat simply isn’t acceptable. So Defenders is joining the case to support FWS’ designation of jaguar critical habitat to protect these important corridors.

Historically, jaguars had a wide ranging habitat in the U.S. extending from southern California to the Grand Canyon and across Texas, but deforestation, draining wetlands and hunting by intolerant ranchers drove the cats south, restricting their range to the southernmost edge of Arizona and New Mexico. Jaguars’ current habitat ranges from the southwest U.S. hugging the border, south through Mexico, Central America, and the northern tip of Argentina. The cats prefer forested habitat for camouflage and climbing and streams for swimming, but their build enables them to crawl through and blend into the scrub brush habitat, characteristic of the southwest U.S.

Since jaguars were nearly wiped out from the U.S. in the 20th century, sporadic sightings over the past twenty years in the Peloncillo and San Luis Mountains have excited wildlife-lovers across the country. These sightings emphasize the importance of protecting the very habitat that is now being challenged. Instead of intolerance, we need to encourage coexistence between ranchers and wildlife, including large predators like jaguars. The FWS’ designation of critical habitat for jaguars will help ensure a “right of way” into the U.S. for these amazing cats, and it must be defended.

Learn About Jaguars

How much do you know about the largest cat in the Americas? Learn about these incredible animals and find out what you can do to help them.

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29 Responses to “Corridors for Jaguars”

    • Connie Bracco

      Please take the necessary action to protect the vital migratory corridors for the jaguars.

  1. susan bird

    Please do not take a step back in protecting these creatures. We need to keep the corridor for their survival. Thank you.

  2. Helen

    How many jaguars are now in the US? Aren’t they all males? With the border fence, how can jaguars even get into the US?

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      Hi Helen. There are no known breeding pairs of jaguars within the borders of the U.S., but some have been documented in southern Arizona and New Mexico in recent years (and you’re right – those were all males). As for your other question, yes, the border fence has a massive impact on wildlife. In fact, a study showed it does more to keep wildlife from crossing its boundaries than humans (http://dfnd.us/1mrEGiP). This definitely makes it more difficult for jaguars and other wildlife to cross into the U.S, but as jaguar sightings in recent years prove, not impossible.

  3. VIVIAN

    It is very important to protect the areas for wildlife to exist If we don’t start now it will be to late.

  4. Jeremy france

    These amazing animals deserve protection for future generations. They were here first so let them have what is rightfully theirs, it isn’t ours

  5. Oliver Craig

    You would think in this day and age these amazing cats would have people in the U.S., going out of their way to protect and encourage their return. It seems not!!!

  6. howard w

    Ive heard all the excuses for not controlling the border with a fence. 11 million illegals are beyond acceptable. However, this cat could be re-introduced into the USA by bringing/importing male and female jaguars and setting them free in protected areas of the USA . Lets protect Jaguars and the USA for future Americans .

  7. olga heijtmajer

    this wall between US and Mexico against so called illegal immigrants, it will bloc any significant wildlife crossing; in our societies we will all have to be willing to share!!!

  8. Leslie Stanick

    Corridors for jaguars are their road to safety rather than extinction. I urge the governments of Mexico and the US to create safe passage for jaguars.

  9. Anselm Dines

    – this is a priority matter; a question of keeping the corridor intact or not. Any decision(s) compromising the protection of the LARGE corridor will diminish the ability for the jaguar population to possibly flourish in the long run, but simply survive. Simple, really.

  10. Paul Colo

    These cats are an important example of the biodiversity still left in some parts of our southwest. They deserve our support and protection.

  11. Rosario

    The beauty of these cats and their role in ecosystem is huge, thank you for protecting them.

  12. Barbara Matusik

    As much as I want to see animals in their original habitats I am strongly against a pathway for jaguars into the lower US. Other large cats-panthers and wolves are fighting for their survival due to our highway system and cattle farmers. A pathway into the US would only mean death. I would not want to support that end!

  13. Mary Lucas

    We must do everything possible to maintain our native wild life habitat. These animals are an important of our world and our heritage.

  14. Judy E.

    May these magnificent animals, jaguars get the right of way to be able to breed and keep living.

  15. Carolynne Stevens

    Until all life is held precious, then none is safe, including humans.

  16. Jacki H.

    Wolves are the caretakers in the wild… They keep the herds healthy by weeding out the sick and old. They are a vital part of this eco-system keeping Mother Earth healthy. Mother Earth is pissed ! The treatment “man” is doing to Her children is really pissing Her off ! She’s washing us off, blowing us off, shaking us off, or burning us out; I hate to think what She has up Her sleeve next, I guarantee you
    I don’t want to be around to see it ! So, WAKE UP PEOPLE, MOTHER EARTH IS PISSED, FIX IT !

  17. Philip Walker

    Important work has been done…..much appreciate…….keep moving forward. We need all of the protected areas we can get. Thanks for all that you do! P

  18. christina Pafitis

    it is the community duty to make sure gods creatures be protected and have them live in peace as you would

  19. Shane Hardy

    Surely it’s a no brainier to provide them with a means of survival.

  20. Kimberly Bartley

    Time to put our big pants on and fix the mess that we and past generations have made.

  21. Sajjad Ashraf

    Good read, these creatures needs to be protected with all the support we can get. Jaguars, Deers, Dolphins all are endangered, btw here are some Amazing dolphin facts

  22. Richard Spotts

    I strongly support and applaud Defenders’ work with Naturalia and the Northern Jaguar Project to establish, maintain, and expand the Northern Jaguar Reserve in the remote mountains of Sonora Mexico. This Reserve protects crucial jaguar habitat and serves as a key source area for jaguars that may move north into southern Arizona. I encourage everyone who cares about jaguar conservation to actively support the Northern Jaguar Project and Reserve.

  23. Mark Donner

    Ban ranchers. Ranchers are simply a criminal mafia that must be stopped.

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