The only known wild jaguar in the United States lives just outside Tucson, Ariz. He’s a male wandering the Santa Rita Mountains — and he’s recently been captured on remote sensor cameras. It’s the first publicly released video footage of this incredible cat, who was named El Jefe in the fall of 2015 after a vote by Tucson school kids and others.

The footage was captured by Conservation CATalyst as part of a partnership with the Center.

We’ve been working for decades to save America’s jaguars. 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.

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. In May 2016 the Service released a new biological opinion. Unfortunately, the conclusions regarding the jaguar in the final document remain largely the same as in the previous version. The Center's Randy Serraglio says, “This outrageous decision, which was contradicted by the agency’s own scientists, will not withstand judicial scrutiny.”

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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Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity released new video today of the only known wild jaguar currently in the United States.Captured on remote sensor cameras in the Santa Rita Mountains just outside of Tucson, the dramatic footage provides a glimpse of the secretive life of one of nature’s most majestic and charismatic creatures. This is the first-ever publicly released video of the #jaguar, recently named 'El Jefe' by Tucson students, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation. Learn more here:

Posted by Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

This is the first-ever publicly released video of the only jaguar north of the U.S.-Mexico border, recently named "El Jefe" by Tucson students, and it comes at a critical point in this cat’s conservation. 


Check out our infographic on jaguars in southern Arizona.

View our album of downloadable photos of America's only jaguar.






Carnivore Conservation
Sky Islands Conservation 
Borderlands and Boundary Waters
San Pedro River
The Endangered Species Act

KIDS: Color a picture of a jaguar
Slideshow of the Center's memorial for the late Macho B, the jaguar killed in 2009

Contact: Randy Serraglio

Photo © Jonathan Troung