Originally Published: November 29, 2011 10 p.m.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has confirmed a hunter's report of a jaguar southeast of Tucson and collected hair samples from the area for possible DNA testing.
A hunter using dogs to hunt mountain lions initially reported spotting the jaguar at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. The dogs pursued an animal the hunter ultimately deemed was a jaguar. The animal was treed approximately 15 feet up in a mesquite tree, and the hunter was able to obtain photographs and video. The hunter has so far declined to share the photos and video with the public.
After photographing the jaguar, the hunter quickly left the area with his dogs and observed from a distant point, Game and Fish officials said. The jaguar remained treed for approximately 15 minutes and then headed south.
Based on the images, biologists believe the jaguar is an adult male that appeared in good, healthy condition and weighed approximately 200 pounds.
Biologists who have viewed the photos consider the images to be of excellent quality with considerable detail. In the future, the department hopes to compare the photos and video to images of other jaguars photographed throughout Arizona in the past.
They will try to use comparisons between a jaguar's unique spots, or "rosettes," to determine if the animal has been identified previously.
Four of the last five confirmed jaguar sightings in Arizona have been reported by hunters, who all took responsible action to document the animal, report it to Game and Fish, and leave the area once the animal was identified as a jaguar. These hunters have provided biologists with critical information that may not otherwise be known, information that will help increase the understanding of the species' existence in the borderland area.
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.
Jaguars once ranged from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States. It is believed that southern Arizona is the most northern part of the range for a population of jaguars living in Sonora, Mexico.
The largest cats native to the Western hemisphere, jaguars are the only cats in North America that roar.
The cats were considered eliminated from the country until two were spotted in 1996 near the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Until this new sighting, the most recent sighting occurred when the Arizona Game and Fish Department captured a jaguar with a snare in southern Arizona in 2009. A Game and Fish contractor illegally trapped it.
Nicknamed Macho B, the agency later euthanized the cat because of failing kidneys, a common ailment among older mammals that sedation can exacerbate. The agency sedated the cat at least twice. Scientists estimated he was 15-16 years of age, the oldest known wild jaguar.
The death sparked criticism over jaguar recovery efforts.
The Fish and Wildlife Service decided last year to set aside critical habitat for the jaguar based on new information it received over the last three years. A draft plan could be out next year.