FORT HUACHUCA, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A trail camera in the Huachuca Mountains has captured an image of a jaguar.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service received the photograph taken by a Fort Huachuca trail camera on Dec. 1.
The agencies are trying to determine if this jaguar is one that has been seen previously or not.
"Preliminary indications are that the cat is a male jaguar and, potentially, an individual not previously seen in Arizona," Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, regional director for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a news release. "We are working with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to determine if this sighting represents a new individual jaguar."
Jim DeVos, the assistant director of the department's Wildlife Management Division, said, "While this is exciting news, we are examining photographic evidence to determine if we're seeing a new cat here, or if this is an animal that has been seen in Arizona before. We look forward to partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and thoroughly vetting the evidence."
Randy Serraglio, Southwest Conservation Advocate for Center for Biological Diversity, said Wednesday that he's certain the jaguar is new to southern Arizona.
"It's something we should be proud of, here in Arizona, to have jaguars in our backyard," he said.
The other jaguar, named El Jefe by the Center for Biological Diversity, hasn't been seen in more than a year. Serraglio said the jaguar from the recent photo has a different spot pattern and looks too young and small to be El Jefe.
Both Serraglio and Mark Hart, spokesman for Arizona Game and Fish Department, said they expect more photos of this jaguar because of the popularity of trail cameras.
"More jaguars are going to pop up on these cameras in southern Arizona and it's a beautiful thing to see them recover these places where they've lived for thousands of years," said Serraglio.
He said the appearance of this cat validates the work of Center for Biological Diversity to protect potential habitats of jaguars.
Hart warned that the public should not attempt to locate the jaguar. He said simply trying to track the wild animal is considered a federal offense.
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