Jaguars, the largest cats in North and South America, have been spotted by humans (and camera traps) in the Madrean Sky Islands of southern Arizona since 1996. These elusive cats use river washes and riparian habitats as pathways between the mountain ranges and pine-oak forests they prefer.
We are seeing jaguars in Arizona now for two reasons: animals are emigrating from northern Mexico AND conservation-minded ranchers are choosing not to shoot them. We don’t know how many jaguars roam Arizona’s sky islands today because it is unlikely that all individuals have either been seen by humans or captured by camera traps. The question is, do we want jaguars to be able to survive and reproduce in the sky islands of the Sonoran Desert?
For those of us who value diversity and the preservation of all living species, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” So how can we facilitate the comeback of the jaguar in the U.S.? The primary obstacles to the return of the jaguar are human-created impediments to their movements. For example, increasing border infrastructure (miles of new border wall) may block the best routes for immigration, and expansion of Rte 2 in Mexico, which runs parallel to the border, may cut off essential access to the border.
FSD board member Jan Schipper, Field Conservation Research Director at the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo, is studying barriers to the movements of all borderland species, including the jaguar. In fact, the last known camera trap photo of a jaguar in Arizona (above) was taken by Jan’s research team on July 26, 2018.
Jaguars are here. We need more scientific data to figure out how to preserve adequate pathways for jaguars trying to migrate to the U.S. from Mexico, and we need the funding to do this work. Click here if you can help.