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Jaguars, Extinct in US, Found Within 30 Miles of Border

A jaguar has been confirmed living–or at least roaming–within 30 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico. The Cougar Network, which tracks big cat sightings, sent out word that the Sky Island Alliance has two photos of jaguars eight days apart about 90 miles north of where everyone thought they lived in Sonora.

Conservation groups like the Northern Jaguar Project,  have worked for years to bring back the big, spotted cat that once ranged as far north as the Grand Canyon across California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and possibly Louisiana.

The find would be significant because last year the last known U.S. jaguar died under circumstances that increasingly look dodgy. Arizona Fish and Game caught Macho B in a trap they said was for bears or cougars. They tranquilized and collared him. Days later the then-sluggish cat was euthanized. The capture and drugs may have hastened his death. Just last month investigators found that the capture was intentional, a possible felony since the jaguar (Panthera onca) is endangered.

Just last month the Fish and Wildlife service reversed a 2006 decision and determined that the jaguar deserves a critical habitat. Even the known population in the Northern Jaguar Preserve, 135 miles south of the border, is cut off by hundreds of miles from the the main population.

The motion-activated game cameras showed the jaguars from different sides, so no one is sure if it’s the same cat, Sergio Avila, an alliance biologist in Tucson, told the Arizona Daily Star. A handful of jaguars have been spotted just over the U.S. border in recent decades. Where the sex was determined, it was always males, probably pioneering out to find new territories.

Carlos Elias, co-owner of El Aribabi ranch where the photos were taken, his wife and biologist Avila exploded with joy when they reviewed the pictures and found the jaguar. They “began hugging and cheering – a celebration of three years working together to preserve the excellent ecological conditions on the property so that species like the jaguar have a place to roam and thrive,” the Sky Island Alliance reported.

“Our family has worked hard to restore ecological processes in this land,” Elias said. “We hope this gets the attention of government agencies and foundations, so we can establish a sustainable model that protects biodiversity and supports landowners and their families at the same time.”
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