North American jaguars are facing extinction, more so now than ever after a male jaguar living in the Huachuca Mountains in Mexico has been reported dead.
Jaguar hunting is illegal in the U.S. and Mexico. There is no evidence the jaguar was killed illegally, save a photo of the dead animal’s pelt, which authorities are comparing to photos of the jaguar taken in 2016 and 2017.
It “certainly appears to be the same jaguar,” Jim DeVos, assistant wildlife management director for the Arizona Game and Fish Department in Phoenix, told the Arizona Daily Star.
The Northern Jaguar Project, a nonprofit working to protect the jaguars around Northern Mexico and Sonora, sent the pelt photo to the Arizona Daily Star in mid June 2018. Several Arizona Game and Fish officials have noted “a very high correlation between the two pictures” and the spot pattern of the pelt.
In 2016, students from a high school in Tucson named the jaguar Yo’oko while on a field trip with nonprofit group Conservation CATalyst. Yo’oko means “jaguar” in the Yaqui language.
“The real tragedy is having to explain to those kids at Hiaki High School that somebody killed their jaguar,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.
There’s no indication of when or specifically where the image of the pelt was captured. Members of the Northern Jaguar Project have confirmed it was taken in Mexico, but divulging further information could damage the relationship the nonprofit has established with local ranchers. The nonprofit provides ranchers with a reward for taking pictures of jaguars on their property. Keeping those relationships healthy is critical to the success of the program.
“There’s not much more to say. We don’t know any of the specifics — where, when, how. We’re trying to get as much information as we can,” DeVos said.
Jaguars in Northern Mexico and Southwestern U.S. have been targeted by poachers for decades. Several male jaguars have been spotted in Arizona since the mid-90s, but only one in Northern Mexico.
“We’re very upset. It’s terrible. We’re very upset that somebody killed that jaguar. I just can’t believe that. It’s really sad for us,” said the Northern Jaguar Project’s Gutierrez Gonzalez.
Among others working to protect Jaguars in the United States and Mexico, Project Wildcat has been working to protect jaguars and other endangered species for years. A Signature Program of GreaterGood.org, members of Project Wildcat work with ranchers in Sonora, Mexico, much like those near the Huachuca Mountains. The organization has partnered with the Primero Conservation in establishing a 34,600-acre wildlife corridor in Sonora, allowing all predators (and prey) freedom to roam.
So far, in working with six different Sonoran ranchers, Project Wildcat has captured 48 different species on its strategically planted wildlife cameras, 22 birds, 20 mammals, 4 reptile, 1 amphibian, and a butterfly.
Much to the delight of everyone at Project Wildcat, jaguars have even, on occasion, pranced in front of the camera. They were able to capture images of the same female jaguar on three different ranches, once with her cub.
Learn more about one of the last wild jaguars living in the Sonoran region in the video below.
The last jaguar to die from non-natural causes was reported in 2009, when 15-year-old “Macho B” was euthanized at the Phoenix Zoo under government authorization. The cat failed to flourish after being released into the wild, and was suffering greatly.
Click the link below to learn more about efforts to save jaguars, and how you can help.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.