Jaguars will have an area of critical habitat established for them in SW United States

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate  lands in Arizona and New Mexico-

Not all endangered species receive a designated “critical habitat.”  This is a big thing for the big cat that is a rare inhabitant of the SW U.S.  The trouble is jaguars may not even inhabit the United States on a continuing basis. There is no doubt that they do from time to time. Photos from “trail cameras,” and the occasional dead jaguar tell us they are really present at times.

The Wildlife News ran a number of stories about controversial capture and subsequent death of the jaguar known male designated as Macho B.  That was back in 2009. The controversy over Macho B led to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversing its 2007 decision not to grant the jaguar an area of critical habitat. So, 838,232 acres in Arizona and New Mexico will  be designated.  One hundred thousand acres of the  land is located in the Peloncillo Mountains of the AZ/NM border.  Other desert mountain ranges are 138,975 acres in the Baboquivari Mountains, Ariz.; 143,578 acres in the Tumacacori, Atascosa and Pajarito mountains, Ariz.; 105,498 acres in the Whetstone Mountains, and connection corridors to the Santa Rita and Huachuca Mountains, Ariz.; and 7,590 acres in the San Luis Mountains, N.M..

The proposal is supposed to be implemented in about a year.  A major controversy over the effort is where the limited resources for jaguar recovery are best spent by the U.S. government. Should they be on the tiny, off-and-0n  existing U.S. population, or should it be further south in Mexico where the number of cats is greater and money might go further?

Another problem is the giant border fence that could block jaguar migration into the United States. Right wingers have been trying to create the perception that this, and indeed all efforts to protect the environment within 100 miles of the border, somehow hinders interception and deterrence of illegal immigrants and drugs.

The Scientific American is one of a number of publications that looks at the critical habitat issue. Kitty Corner: Jaguars Win Critical Habitat in U.S.. By Susan H. Greenberg





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  1. Steve Spangle Avatar
    Steve Spangle

    Dear Dr. Maughan: I am the Field Supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arizona Ecological Services Office. I wanted to point out that a statement in your piece is incorrect–the unfortunate events surrounding the capture and death of Macho B were completely independent of the legal proceedings that resulted in our critical habitat proposal. They are connected in that they both involve the same species, but nothing more than that. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Dear Steve,

      As you probably know all too well, the many news reports various media have written on this pretty much all say the two events are legally connected. I could not see how they were connected, but since I was doing just a short story, I didn’t feel any need to look further. So, thank you greatly for giving the view of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I ought to investigate this further, if only for my own edification.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    Good news but it seems obvious that female jaguars are going to have to be brought in (reintroduced) to augment any kind of recovery.

  3. aves Avatar

    I’d rather any effort and money that is spent on jaguars take place in Central and South America where breeding populations already occur and much progress has been made in saving habitat corridors.

    Despite this proposed critical habitat Jaguars have no chance of being reestablished in the U.S. without something similar to critical habitat designation by Mexico. That’s not likely to occur given the priorities of the shaky Mexican government and the certain vehement opposition from Mexican ranchers. We can forget about reintroduction, the political will to reintroduce, recover and manage large carnivores is gone with the wind and I don’t see it coming back anytime soon.

    I’d rather more attention and effort be focused on other endangered species in the Southwest like the ocelot. One random ocelot was documented in Arizona in 2009, the first since 1964, but ocelots have been documented only 35 miles south of the Arizona border. The only population in the U.S. is the less than 30 ocelots in southeastern Texas. They exist in 2 separate populations isolated from both each other and more ocelots in Mexico. No critical habitat has been designated for them, and though they may benefit from the jaguar’s critical habitat in Arizona, it won’t help the remaining few survivors in Texas at all. We are close to losing this magnificent cat. Why not focus on saving an endangered cat that is actually here?

    1. Nancy Avatar

      “Why not focus on saving an endangered cat that is actually here?”

      Aves – as you know, some wolves were “actually” documented here in parts of Montana for years, long before they were reintroduced.

      The bigger question might be – why are there such low populations of ocelots? And why are so many predators, period, across the country, kept at such low minimums, to the point of just hovering above endangered?

    2. Mark L Avatar
      Mark L

      I support the US critical habitat designation because I think eventually we have to accept the fact that ‘shaky Mexican government’ is easily swayed by money/influence and the US stance is more steadfast in the long run (more eyes to watch the pot).
      Most US ranchers don’t have the same level of opposition that Mexican ones do, primarily because they are better educated about the facts surrounding jaguars, apex predators in general, and younger ranchers are learning that a ‘shoot first’ mentality is not profitable in the long run. The fact that jaguars are so hesitant to attack humans, even when cornered, is a huge plus also.
      Ocelots? Absolutely…they need designated areas also. I’d argue that some areas of southwestern Louisiana would need it also.
      The common foe of all these cats is the same for most hunters also: malls, parking lots, paved roads, golf courses, etc. Keep the wild areas wild and don’t compromise on conservation. JMHO

  4. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    While I am glad to see critical habitat developed, it seems to me that the only way jaguars will have a chance of being established is if some do get reintroduced in the USA. That would be great to see, but considering that this is along the US/Mexico border which is a hot topic for a completely different reason, the debates on this could be even worse than the debate on wolves. Still, I think it would be great if jaguars could be brought back to the US.

  5. grdnrmt Avatar

    Having been born and raised in this part of the country, I applaud this effort! I am curious as to why habitat in the Chiricahua Mountain range was not designated?


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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