Paul Ingram - TucsonSentinel.com
Remote survey cameras funded by the Department of Homeland Security have captured new images of an endangered northern jaguar moving through Southern Arizona. On March 5, a remote camera photographed a male jaguar in the Santa Rita Mountains. The image, along with dozens more, are hosted on the Flickr page for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under "Jaguar/Ocelot Survey."
The camera is part of a network of cameras placed in pairs across 120 sites from the Baboquivari Mountains in Southern Arizona and east to the Animas Mountains in southwest New Mexico. The Santa Ritas include the area that would be covered by the proposed Rosemont Mine. The $771,000 study is run by University of Arizona researchers and officials from FWS.
The jaguar, which is listed as an endangered species, once ranged from California into Louisiana. However, habitat destruction and hunting decimated the population. Jaguars have been spotted occasionally in southern Arizona in recent years, including reports of one in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. In 2009, state Game and Fish Department employees snared an aged jaguar, dubbed Macho B, which died shortly after in captivity.
The Center for Biological Diversity sued Fish and Wildlife three times seeking critical habitat protection for jaguars. In 2009, a federal judge in Arizona rejected the agency’s arguments against the designation, including the fact that few jaguars were believed to be in the United States. However, in March, FWS labeled more than 764,000 acres in Southeastern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico as habitat critical to the survival of the endangered animals in the United States. A recovery plan for the northern jaguar is slated for release in the spring and could include efforts to increase the number of jaguars in northern Mexico as well as the United States.