Many people are not aware that jaguars are native to the US. Their range once included parts of Arizona, New Mexico, California, Texas, Louisiana, and possibly more (Alanen, 2015; USFWS, 2012). But they were wiped out largely due to government-sponsored programs that sought to eradicate many predatory animals.
The last confirmed sighting of a female jaguar in the US took place in Arizona in 1963, and she was killed by a government hunter.
However, in 1996 jaguars began to reappear in the US. Since then, there have been a number of confirmed sighting of male jaguars in Arizona. Just last year, two new jaguars were confirmed in that state. A male named Yo’ko was photographed in the Huachuca Mountains in December 2016 and May 2017, and a jaguar of unknown sex was photographed in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in November 2016. This individual is named Sombra, and it is the jaguar that the Center for Biological Diversity has just videotaped.
Here is the footage:
Most jaguars in the US are believed to be dispersing males from a nearby population in the Mexican state of Sonora. When male jaguars reach sexual maturity (approximately 3-4 years old), they are known to travel large distances in search of a new territory. Therefore it is critical to keep the US-Mexico border open for wildlife, so that animals like jaguars can cross like they always have.
But as of now Sombra’s sex is not known. Should Sombra turn out to be a female, then that would be momentous for jaguar recovery.
Until we know what sex Sombra is, the best course of action is to help bolster the jaguar population in Sonora. The Northern Jaguar Project is a great group that is trying to do just that – I recommend you visit their website to learn more. Protecting any jaguars who enter the US is also crucial, and jaguar critical habitat has been established in Arizona and New Mexico. Unfortunately, a proposed copper mine threatens its integrity.
Lastly, as I mentioned before, we have to make sure animals like jaguars can safely cross the US-Mexico border.