Revered as deities amongst the Mayan and Aztec peoples, jaguars inspire through their grace and power. These agile hunters once roamed from South America through the southern and central United States, but lost habitat and were killed off in the eastern part of the country in the 1700s. They were reduced through Spanish bounties and fur hunting in the southwestern United States, and the last animals were systematically hunted down by the federal government in the 20th century — only to reappear sporadically in solitary northward migrations from Mexico.
After the jaguar was listed as endangered in the United States in 1997 in response to a Center campaign, we three times sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a recovery plan and critical habitat designation. Finally, in early 2010, the Service announced it would grant the jaguar protected habitat in the United States as well as develop a recovery plan. The Center proposed the designation of more than 50 million acres of jaguar critical habitat in the Southwest; advocated for protection from government traps, snares and poisons; and opposed walling off the U.S.-Mexico border — which the Service said wouldn’t hurt the species — to ensure that jaguars will always have access to the full extent of their range.
Tragically, in March 2009, the Arizona Game and Fish Department euthanized the last then-known U.S. jaguar — Macho B — after capturing and fitting him with a radio collar. The Center called for an independent medical investigation, which revealed that the jaguar’s death was at least in part due to agency mismanagement, and called on Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement to do an independent investigation, which it did. We sued Arizona Game and Fish to prevent the killing of any more jaguars, and in January 2010, the Interior Department’s inspector general released a report concluding that Macho B’s capture had been intentional — and that Game and Fish had no permit to capture jaguars, either intentionally or incidentally. In April 2010, we filed a notice of intent to sue the predator-control branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture over its use of traps, snares and poisons that risk injuring or killing both jaguars and ocelots in the Southwest; two months later, we filed a notice over the Fish and Wildlife Service’s permit authorizing Arizona Game and Fish to “take” jaguars with traps and snares.
In 2011, though, a brand-new, 200-pound male jaguar was spotted roaming the southern Arizona’s Sky Island mountain ranges. He has now been photographed more than 100 times by remote trail cameras in the Santa Rita mountains, less than 30 miles from Tucson — including at some locations less than half a mile from the proposed Rosemont Mine, a massive open-pit copper mine that would destroy thousands of acres of the new jaguar’s home range. (Click here to help us decide what to name this jaguar.)
And now, as a result of Center legal action, the new jaguar’s home range is protected as critical habitat, In March 2014 the Fish and Wildlife Service finalized the designation of 764,207 acres as critical for the survival and recovery of jaguars in the United States, including the Rosemont Mine site and key movement corridors in the Santa Ritas and near the border, but unfortunately omitting the rugged Gila headwaters in New Mexico and the pine-clad Mogollon Rim in Arizona.In May 2015 we sent a letter to the Service objecting to its proposed biological opinion that the Rosemont mine wouldn’t compromise jaguar recovery in the United States, after which the Service withdrew its opinion and began to redo the analysis. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Center learned that the Service issued the opinion despite four different draft opinions from its own scientists asserting the exact opposite conclusion — that the mine would be a disaster for the Rosemont jaguar and recovery of the species in general. The Center has been a leading member of the coalition fighting the mine since 2007, and we’ll continue to fight to ensure that this mine is never developed in the heart of jaguar territory.
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