The only known wild jaguar in the United States has been spotted roaming a mountain range in Southern Arizona.
The big cat, named El Jefe – Spanish for “the boss” – has been living in the Santa Rita Mountains, about 25 miles south of Tuscon, for over three years.
Conservationists at the Center for Biological Diversity, hoping to gain an insight into the jaguar’s behaviour, released a rare film on Wednesday showing the animal traipsing through wooded areas and across a mountain creek.
El Jefe is the only verified jaguar in the US, since another cat, Macho B, was euthanized after suffering capture-related injuries in March 2009. The last verified female jaguar in the country was shot by a hunter in 1963.
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.htmlPosted by Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, who has been collecting data on the Santa Rita jaguar for three years, said: “Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the US is especially challenging.
“We use our specially trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts.”
El Jefe’s habitat, however, is under threat from a proposed mine that has been in the works for many years.
The planned mile-wide open pit mine and 800-foot-high piles of toxic mine waste would permanently destroy thousands of acres of occupied, federally protected, jaguar habitat where El Jefe lives, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
“The Rosemount Mine would destroy El Jefe’s home and severely hamstring recovery of jaguars in the United States,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center.
“At ground zero for the mine is the intersection of three major wildlife corridors that are essential for jaguars moving back into the US to reclaim lost territory. The Santa Rita Mountains are critically important to jaguar recovery in the country, and they must be protected."
“Clearly, the Santa Rita Mountains are a vital part of this cat’s home range,” said Mr Bugbee. “This jaguar has been photographed in every month of the year in these mountains - there are more than 100 detections of him in the Santa Ritas since 2013 - how could anyone argue the importance of these mountains?”
Jaguars are the third largest cats in the world after tigers and lions.
The big cats once lived in the American southwest, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, in the mountains of Southern California and as far as Louisiana.
Jaguars have disappeared from the US over the past 150 years, primarily due to habitat loss and government predator control programmes intended to protect the livestock industry.