This is not the sort of story I like to share. Since 1996, seven male jaguars (Panthera onca) have been confirmed in the United States. This provided some hope that the species, which once ranged widely throughout the southwestern US, might eventually recolonize parts of their former range. Unfortunately, one of those jaguars has been killed.
The Northern Jaguar Project (NJP) recently sent a photo of a jaguar pelt to the Arizona Daily Star. The NJP’s biologists, six members of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and a retired US Fish and Wildlife biologist have all looked at the picture. They have concluded that the spot pattern matches that of Yo’oko, a jaguar who was repeatedly photographed in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona.
Yo’oko was first photographed in the Huachucas on December 1, 2016. Then, in 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst arranged for students at Hiaki High School in Tucson to give the jaguar a name. Many of the students at that school are members of the Yaqui tribe, and they chose the name “Yo’oko:” meaning “jaguar” in Yaqui.
Jaguars are endangered in both the US and Mexico, so killing them is illegal in both countries. Jim DeVos of Arizona Game and Fish has stated that he would like to know more about who killed Yo’oko and where, but the NJP will not say how they obtained the photograph. They work closely with ranchers in northern Mexico, and do not wish to lose their trust. All the NJP is saying is that the photo was taken in Mexico.
This is obviously a tragic event. Yo’oko provided hope to many people, and now he has been killed and skinned. But as Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity pointed out, this case shows that jaguars in both the US and Mexico need to be protected.