Whither a recovery plan for the jaguar?

Jaguar court fight centers on habitat. By Tony Davis. Arizona Daily Star

Can the jaguar be recovered in the United States or must efforts be focused further to the south?

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Michael Robinson on the lawsuit for a recovery plan and critical habitat for the jaguar. Center for Biological Diversity video.






  1. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Could an entirely US based population of jaguars be genetically stable and self sustaining? I know there’s still habitat for them in Arizona east through south Texas, but I don’t know how large the population would need to get to be self sustaining, and if a population that size could be supported on the available land. If the land here isn’t large enough to support a stable population without frequent gene flow between the US and Mexico, then yes, we’ll have to focus on the Mexican jaguar population.

    That said, I’m not sure that it’s the best place to spend our resources. I like jaguars, and would love to see them back, but my understanding is that the southwest was always on the periphery of thier range, and that they were never all that common or ecologically significant.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    You’re probably right, Paul.

    On the other hand, the climate is warming. It might become more favorable to jaguar.

    After spending a month in Arizona, I can see that the grazing of cattle there is even more ridiculous than the arid and semi arid lands of Idaho. Perhaps the livestock will disappear under a combination of events.

  3. Virginia Avatar

    I wonder if anyone considered contacting Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, the Director for Science and Exploration for the Bronx Zoo Wildlife-based Conservation Society. His work for the jaguars in Belize helped create the first jaguar sanctuary in that country and he has helped to establish the largest nature reserve in Taiwan. In Thailand, he helped create the region’s first World Heritage site. You never know if he might be interested in saving the jaguar in the U.S.

  4. Jeff Avatar

    Historical records show jaguars as far north as the Bay Area in California, Flagstaff and the hill country of Central Texas. Lions still inhabit most if not all of that same range today, what are the particular needs/differences in jaguar management? It seems like for every jaguar one has, there would be one less puma…

  5. paulWTAMU Avatar

    I wasn’t aware of the range into California; I thought it was just Arizona to Texas, going as far as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, at least to Otero County (maybe a bit farther) in NM.
    In Texas the ranges northerly boundary got more and more restricted as you moved eastward. Range probably included Big Bend, east to not quite Houston, going as far north as Crockett or Upton County in the west. Checking maps though it seems you’re right, the range was continuous into Southern California.

    The difficulty here is two pronged. There’s a question as to weather or not a population could be made to be self sustaining. I’m not comftorable assuming that there will always be a stable jaguar population in northern Mexico for genetic exchange to take place, so I’d want any population we got going in the US to have at least the potential to be more or less self sustaining. I don’t know if it can be; there’d have to be some studies done (hell, there may have been already).

    The other issue is the ecological similarity between it and the cougar. This, at least to me, makes the reintroduction a lower priority. There is already an apex predator filling nearly the same role as the cat would. There is no such analog for wolves or bears in the Southwest yet we haven’t even managed to get them really reintroduced to the area; there was a half hearted attempt to get a group of Mexican Grays in the Gila wilderness, but it was just that–half hearted and half assed. I’d rather focus our efforts on those animals first. Hopefully, afterwards, we could work to see about reintroducing the jaguar.

  6. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Should have added: It may, however, be possible to work out a program with Mexico to protect jaguar habitats that range over both sides of the border. That’d be possibly very useful, and be beneficial if we ever start trying to reintroduce other animals as well, since habitat is a need shared by all species. I don’t know how politically feasible that is, but if it is feasible, it’d be a good idea for conservation in general.

    I’m not knocking what the people suing here are trying to do; habitat protection is good. I’m just saying that to save the jaguar, we will have to (probably) focus our efforts farther south.

  7. JB Avatar

    If we could just get them to prey on the Mexican mafia, we could solve two problems at once! 😉

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I think that it probably is more important to focus on the jaguar populations south of the border. We have already proven that jaguars have been able to migrate into the Southwest. I think that is probably will be a matter of time before we start seeing some females (if there haven’t been already) and a breeding population will follow. If jaguars are protected in Mexico then we can see more and more come into the US with full ESA protection and not like the wolves that have been reintroduced (half-assed as Jeff so eloquently put it).
    In regards to Jeff’s comment about the mountain lion being an apex predator, has anyone ever seen any studies on competition between the two? I would think the jaguar would be more of a fearsome predator but I know that the two species coexist in most of their range.

  9. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Er, that was me not Jeff calling the Gila deal half assed 😉 And I’ve only read a little bit about the two species interacting. It seems (from Borderland Jaguars) that home ranges of the two species don’t overlap and rarely coincide. So you’ll have stretches of country where you might see either, but you wont find a jaguar and a cougar using the same particular tract of land. So I’d imagine interspecific competition is pretty intense with those two. I’d love more/better studies though, if anyone has ’em? *drool* I shoulda kept up my JSTOR and worldcat subs 🙁

  10. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Sorry I did not give credit where credit was due paulWTAMU. It does make sense that the two would be fierce competitors.

  11. monty Avatar

    As I wrote a couple of years ago, the “Big Bend Texas Ecosytem” (my name) is protected on both sides of the border because of Mexican & US cooperation. On the US side there is: the 800 thousand acre Big Bend NP, 350 thousand acre Big Bend Texas State park & the 100 thosand acre Black Gap desert bighorn refuge. On the Mexican side, currently, 1 million acres is protected with plans for expansion. Both mexican & US biologists routinely meet to discuss wildlife protection, species reintroduction & such. Big Bend NP also happens to be the only known place in the US where a large mammal–Black Bear–reintroduced itself into the US in the 1980’s when a female bear with 3 cubs was seen swimming across the Rio Grande. Currently there are about 35 bears in Big Bend NP. It’s been a decade or so since the last jaguar was seen in Big Bend country. Big bend has a healthy puma population due to wild pigs & 3 deer species & maybe I am just blowing smoke to think or hope that this wild wonderful place could provide habitat for jaguars.

  12. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I wouldn’t be surprised if jaguars found their way there eventually. Does anyone know if there has been any talk of wolf reintroduction there? It seems that it could hold a decent sized population.

  13. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    But they’re building a fence through it, right?

  14. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Yeah, I thought that we were fencing most of the border and working on reducing vegetation around the Rio Grande as part of our anti-immigrant policy (cause ya know, a 10′ fence will keep out someone who will cross hundreds of miles of desert)? Or did that get canceled/delayed?

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The fence is rapidly going up.

  16. Maska Avatar

    Except that “fence” is an understatement. Having seen a section going up in Arizona a year ago, I think it’s more accurate to call it a wall.

  17. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The border fence or wall is beginning to show up on Google
    Earth. Here are a few photos.

    It is especially strong in California. Demarcated Landscapes has written a lot about its effects of wildlife.

    In New Mexico

    Tecate, CA/MX

    Nogales, MX/AZ

    Near the San Pedro River AZ, MX

    I could find no photographic evidence yet of the structure in Big Bend National Park

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Posting about the border fence could spawn a long and divisive debate, but I think that whether it is a good idea or a bad one, it should be a virtual wall, meaning not a physical structure at many rugged and/environmentally sensitive locations.

    It should not be a one size fits all situations.

  19. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Amen Ralph! I could say more but that would seriously take this off-topic.

  20. JB Avatar

    What is to debate? Show me a 20 ft fence and I’ll show you a 21 foot ladder. Talk about a waste of taxpayer dollars.

  21. paulWTAMU Avatar

    Because the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall and the Gaza Wall all work sooo well 🙂

  22. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Thank-you paulWTAMU and JB.

  23. monty Avatar

    I don’t think they are going to build a fence in Big Bend NP, it is extremely rugged country. There are 3 canyons along the Rio Grande that are 1500 feet or more in height . This would be the last place I would attempt to cross the border. I haven’t heard about any discussion concerning the introduction of wolves but they have discussed such wild ideas as introducing bison and/or grizzlies which I think is far out.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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