Originally Published: December 9, 2016 11:37 a.m.
FORT HUACHUCA – A U.S. Army trail camera has captured an image of a male jaguar in the Huachuca Mountains in southeastern Arizona.
The Army sent the photograph to the Arizona Game and Fish department. Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, “Preliminary indications are that the cat is a male jaguar and, potentially, an individual previously not seen in Arizona. Tuggle said his department is working with state Game and Fish “to determine if this sighting represents a new individual jaguar.”
The same preliminary analysis suggests this is not El Jefe, a jaguar captured on video last year. El Jefe, “The Chief,” was believed to be the only jaguar in the entire nation. Where El Jefe or this new jaguar came from is a mystery as the last known female jaguar in Arizona was shot and killed by a hunter in the White Mountains in 1963.
“While this is exciting news, we are examining photographic evidence to determine if we’re seeing a new cat here, or if this is an animal that has been seen in Arizona before,” said Jim DeVos, assistant director of the state department’s Wildlife Management Division. “We look forward to partnering with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and thoroughly vetting the evidence.”
In 1963, a hunter in Arizona’s White Mountains shot the last known female jaguar in the U.S.
Two years later, in 1965, the last legally-killed male jaguar was taken by a deer hunter in the Patagonia Mountains, south of Tucson.
Arizona, New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest were home to jaguars before predator control programs aimed at protecting livestock eliminated them.
In 1969, Arizona outlawed jaguar hunting.