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Jaguar Caught On Camera In Arizona Mountains [VIDEO]

Feb 05, 2016 03:50 PM EST
The only known wild jaguar in the U.S. was recently caught on camera by the Center for Biological Diversity.
(Photo : Flickr: Bart van Dorp)

Did you know any jaguars live in the United States? In a new video, the only known wild jaguar in the U.S. was seen roaming Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains just outside Tucson.

"El Jefe" -- Spanish for "the boss" -- has been living in Arizona for over three years, according to conservationists from the Center for Biological Diversity. Recent footage, captured by remote sensor cameras, showed the wild animal lurking through wooded areas and across a mountain creek.

Researchers say El Jefe is about seven years old and is one of only four or five jaguars that have been spotted in the U.S. in the last 20 years. He remains the only verified jaguar in the U.S., since another cat, Macho B, was euthanized after suffering capture-related injuries in March 2009.

"Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the U.S. is especially challenging," Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, who has been collecting data on the Santa Rita jaguar for three years, said in a news release. "We use our specially trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts."

With their footage, researchers hope to gain insight into the jaguar's behavior. The male jaguar is believed to have made his journey to Arizona from 130 miles south of the border. Jaguars -- the third largest cats in the world after tigers and lions -- tend to be solitary animals, so it is not unusual that El Jefe was found traveling alone. (Scroll to read more...)

His habitat, however, is under threat from a proposed open-pit copper mine site that has been in the works for many years, but is currently tied up in the permitting phase. Pending approval, the massive mine would produce toxic mine waste and permanently destroy thousands of acres of occupied, federally protected jaguar habitat where this jaguar lives, conservationists say.

"Clearly, the Santa Rita Mountains are a vital part of this cat's home range," Bugbee added. "This jaguar has been photographed in every month of the year in these mountains -- there are more than 100 detections of him in the Santa Ritas since 2013 -- how could anyone argue the importance of these mountains?"

While the big cats were once abundant in the American southwest, 150 years of habitat loss and lack of federal protection ultimately drove them away. 

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