Trail cameras in Arizona have spotted what authorities believe might be a brand new jaguar that has crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jaguars are rarely seen in Arizona and the state marks the very most northern area of the big cat’s 18-country range.
“These photos show that despite so many obstacles, jaguars continue to reestablish territory in the United States,” says Russ McSpadden, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a wonderful reminder that these big cats move great distances across the landscape. It drives home the importance of protecting connected habitat for these elusive, beautiful felines.”
Speaking to Fox 10 Phoenix, McSpadden says that the images the trail camera captured don’t allow him to identify the individual so it could be a jaguar called Sombra who has lived in Arizona since 2016.
Every jaguar has unique spot patterns which specialists can use to distinguish one individual from the other. But the trail photos are “too blurry for spot analysis,” notes the federal wildlife agency.
But the hope is that it is a new jaguar that has traveled through a migration corridor that was previously blocked because of double-stacked shipping crates on the southern slopes of the Huachacha Mountains.
“The federal government intervened, my organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, we also took legal action specifically notifying the governor of our intent to sue for him blocking this important jaguar migration corridor,” says McSpadden.
Only three jaguars have been detected in Arizona in the past decade: El Jefe (The Boss in Spanish), Yo’ko (the Yaquie word for jaguar), and Sombra (Spanish for shadow.)
But all of these jaguars are males and a female hasn’t been seen in Arizona since 1949. This is because females stay closer to their original territories.
“Males are the ones that expand and disperse. This means that when a jaguar becomes an adult it has to find new territories. There are more records of jaguars in the United States and on the border with Mexico because they are exploring for new territories,” Ganesh Marin, a University of Arizona doctoral candidate who has helped monitor jaguar activity in the state, tells the Arizona Republic.
Trail cameras are helping people learn far more about the nature and animals than ever before. This week, brutal footage showed a wolf killing a beaver — with the beaver’s head later seen being carried around by another wolf — it is only the second-ever recording of this type of hunt.