Jaguar Sighting Near Arizona-Sonora Border Bring Hopes For Expansion Into The U.S.

By Kendal Blust
Published: Friday, March 26, 2021 - 8:56am
Updated: Friday, March 26, 2021 - 9:01am
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Researchers have captured new footage of a jaguar just a few miles south of the border in neighboring Sonora, Mexico. Conservationists say that could be a sign that the species’ breeding range may be extending north. That would be good news for efforts to reestablish a population in Arizona.

Videos of the young male jaguar named “El Bonito” were captured on four cameras on the “Cuenca Los Ojos” conservation ranch in northern Sonora between December and March.

Protecting The Northern Jaguar

"This is great," said Ganesh Marin, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona who has placed 100 camera traps in the area to study the movement of wildlife in the borderlands, in collaboration with various groups from both sides of the border. "It is showing us that the connectivity is there, and we are not far from the populations of jaguars."

He and others say signs that breeding populations of jaguars are so close to the U.S. point to the possibility of the cats reclaiming territory in Arizona, where populations were wiped out by hunters more than 100 years ago. But that can only happen if wildlife corridors remain unimpeded by border walls, highways and other barriers, and if populations in Mexico are protected so they can continue to grow.

That will require commitment on the part of both the United States and Mexico, Marin said, and will also require removing parts of the border wall that prevent jaguars and other species from crossing the border.

The videos of "El Bonito" were taken just three miles from where border wall construction stopped, he said, adding that his study is working to identify critical pints where the border wall is blocking animals' movement.

He added that protecting jaguars and the wildlife corridors they use will also benefit other species in the borderlands.

"If jaguars are here and if we can promote connectivity between the two countries, this is not only helpful to jaguars, but also for other species," he said. "And I think that's the most important part of having jaguars in the United States - not only to protect the jaguar, but also because we want to ensure the connectivity for black bears, for pumas, for bobcats and for other species that are not the stars in the news."