Arizona Game and Fish collars first wild jaguar in United States

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February 20th, 2009

Jaguar conservation has just experienced an exciting development with the capture and collaring of the first wild jaguar in Arizona by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The male cat was incidentally captured yesterday in an area southwest of Tucson during a research study aimed at monitoring habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears. While individual jaguars have been photographed sporadically in the borderland area of the state over the past years, the area where this animal was captured was outside of the area where the last known jaguar photograph was taken in January.

The jaguar was fitted with a satellite tracking collar and then released. The collar will provide biologists with location points every three hours. Early tracking indicates that the cat is doing well and has already travelled more than three miles from the capture site.

The data produced by the collar will shed light on a little-studied population segment of this species that uses southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern extent of its range.

“While we didn’t set out to collar a jaguar as part of the mountain lion and bear research project, we took advantage of an important opportunity,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “More than 10 years ago, Game and Fish attempted to collar a jaguar with no success. Since then, we’ve established handling protocols in case we inadvertently captured a jaguar in the course of one of our other wildlife management activities.”

The jaguar plan, which was created in consultation with other leading jaguar experts, includes a protocol for capture, sedation and handling in the event a cat was captured.

Biologists are currently working on an identification analysis to determine if the collared jaguar is Macho B, a male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years.

The collared jaguar weighed in at 118 pounds with a thick and solid build. Field biologists’ assessment shows the cat appeared to be healthy and hardy.

The species has been protected outside of the United States under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. That protection was extended to jaguars within the U.S. in 1997, the year after their presence in the Arizona and New Mexico borderlands was confirmed.

“We issued a permit under the Endangered Species Act to radio collar a jaguar if the opportunity presented itself,” said Steve Spangle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona field supervisor. “Gathering habitat use information and learning whether and how the cat is moving in and out of the United States may be essential to jaguar conservation at the northern edge of their range.”

In 1997, a team was established in Arizona and New Mexico to protect and conserve the species. The Jaguar Conservation Team (JCT) began working with Mexico two years later, recognizing that the presence of jaguars in the United States depends on the conservation of the species in Mexico.

Trail cameras and field monitoring are carried out by the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, a group that works in cooperation with the JCT.

Jaguars once ranged from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States. By the late 1900s, jaguars were thought to be gone from the U.S. landscape, but two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed that jaguars still used Arizona and New Mexico as part of the northern most extent of its range.

Jaguars are the only cat in North America that roars. They prey on a variety of mammals, fish, birds and reptiles. Individuals in the northern population weigh between 80-120 pounds. Females breed year-round and have litters of one to four cubs that stay with their mother for nearly two years.

This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue. Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state including protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.

9 Responses to “Arizona Game and Fish collars first wild jaguar in United States”

  1. I loved the story on the jaquar and the beautiful photograph. I was so excited to see the Starnet offer the opportunity to purchace a print. Today I received an e- mail stating that they actually were not authorized to do this. So disappointing!!! Will Game and Fish make the photo available to the public? Please Please Please

  2. thanks
    exciting news about the jaguar

  3. […] data received from the tracking device on the recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging […]

  4. Any news about why it died so quickly after being captured/collared?

  5. Two evenings ago (June17) around 6:30 a jaguar crossed by front yard/driveway coming from the direction of the Catalinas and heading westward, in the direction of Oracle Road and Suffolk Drive.

    I have never seen a jaguar in the wild, but indeed it was. Long tail, very sleek and definite spots. Orange and brown coloration.

    I came to this website after googling ‘jaguar Arizona’. The animal I saw was not as stocky as the one in the photo.

    I was astounded! It was absolutely beautiful. It stopped, turned its head in my direction, studied me for minute or so, raised its tail and gave it a flick, making evident a white tip, turns away, and meandered across the driveway and back into the desert plants.

    Exciting news!

  6. pardon me, it was three nights ago, not two, please make the correction


  7. I’m sorry, the date was June 18th (got too excited when i saw the report at the website!).

    please correct that too.

    All for now,


  8. I would like to know how far north have jaguars ever been tracked in Arizona in the last month?

  9. I think I encountered one of these just OUTSIDE PHOENIX just this morning (10/24/09) along a trail through the open land area bordering Carefree (SR74) & Puzzola (29th Avenue)!!! It was stretched out along a tree limb about 20 feet off the ground. The birds were giving it hell else I would have missed it. Its coat was orange with black spots/rings and it had a long tail so I don’t think this was a bobcat. I’ve only seen these in zoos. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera!

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