The only confirmed ocelot in Arizona whose nickname is “Lil’ Jefe” has been captured on a trail camera in the Huachuca Mountains.
Jason Miller, a hobbyist wildlife videographer, used motion-activated trail cameras to capture the medium-sized wild cat from two different angles on July 4.
Lil’ Jefe was first officially sighted over a decade ago and experts believe the ocelot has been in Arizona his entire life and has never been returned to Mexico to breed. That could be because of a physical barrier.
“Lil’ Jefe is one of the last ocelots in Arizona, cut off from most other ocelots by the construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico,” Conservation CATalyst executive director Aletrix Neils tells Tuscon.com.
“The wall has bisected almost perfectly what has long been the terrain of male ocelots occurring in Arizona from the terrain of female ocelots, most of them concentrated about 40 miles south, on the other side of the border.”
How Trail Cameras Help to Chart Wildlife
Miller has captured the cat on camera before in the same area two years ago and these recordings help researchers and conversation groups track elusive wildlife.
“The presence of spotted cats in Arizona generates a lot of public excitement and enthusiasm for wildlife,” says Arizona Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Hart. “Every time someone gets an image of one, more cameras go up.”
The footage provides irrefutable proof of their existence and azcentral that he is excited to capture more footage of Lil’ Jefe.
“It’s so addicting,” Miller says. “When you hunt, you pull the trigger and it’s over. But with the camera, you continue getting the same animals year after year. I fell in love with it.”
Miller’s ultimate goal is to capture a jaguar in southern Arizona but has had no such luck yet. He is a landscaper by trade but has found himself doing more and more trail camera filming.
“I honestly do it more than my regular job,” he tells Tuscon.com. With 6,000 subscribers to his YouTube page, he says he makes enough money to pay for batteries and gas.
He maintains dozens of cameras in various locations, PetaPixel previously reported on one of his videos of a bear falling asleep right in front of one of Miller’s cameras.