CConservationists are making another push to get federal wildlife officials to devote more resources to the re-establishment of wild jaguars in the U.S.
Only three jaguars have been seen in recent years, but conservationists like Rob Peters, a senior representative for Defenders of Wildlife, believe they can call the United States home again with a series of conservation measures including translocation and establishing a larger habitat area by federal officials.
Wild jaguars lived in Arizona as far north as the Grand Canyon and in New Mexico for years before habitat loss and predator control programs aimed at protecting livestock eliminated them in the past 150 years. It’s been over 50 years since a female jaguar was seen in Arizona.
But in the past few years, trail cameras have captured three jaguars in Arizona. Two are males, and the gender of the third one, which was captured on camera in the Dos Cabezas Mountains in Arizona about 60 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border late last year, is unknown.
Recovery efforts have faced pushback from all sides, including livestock owners who sued the Fish and Wildlife Service when it set aside nearly 1,200 square miles along the border as habitat for the conservation of jaguars in 2014.
“There are all these political issues, but when you have good plan, coexistent techniques that really work, I think there’s a path toward success,” Peters said.
Peters said the biggest obstacle to a renewed push for recovery is the habitat boundaries set by a proposed jaguar recovery plan released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December. That plan aims to sustain habitat, eliminate poaching and improve social acceptance of the animal. It focuses recovery efforts on northern Mexico, where a sizeable population of jaguars lives.
Peters also says Fish and Wildlife should also consider relocating female jaguars from Mexico to the United States.