Benson hunter speaks out after encounter with jaguar

Published: Nov. 22, 2011 at 9:23 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:20 PM MST
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Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department
Source: Arizona Game and Fish Department

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A Benson hunter is speaking out after his encounter with a Jaguar.

32-year old Donnie Fenn called it a dream come true.  In fact, he joked that he had just been telling his friends that it was just a matter of time before he would run into a Jaguar.  Little did he know that time was about to come.

"I didn't expect it to come this early in life," said Fenn, during a press conference at the AZ Game and Fish office in West Tucson.

Fenn, who is an excavator by profession also runs a business called Chasin' Tail Guide Service.  They specialize in lion hunting tours.

Fenn said he had been a hunter since he was a child, but he started lion hunting just a few years ago.  His 10-year old daughter hoped to follow in his footsteps.

On Saturday morning, she told her dad she wanted to go lion hunting, so Fenn set out with his daughter, and his friend Tyler Burkett.

Fenn said they rode for about an hour and a half and saw no lion tracks.  Then some of his Hound Dogs started barking and took off down the canyon.

Fenn said he jumped on a mule and headed up the canyon, where he came to a saddle.

200 yards from where he was standing, Fenn saw his dogs circling a tree and barking.  He zoomed his camera lens in that direction, and immediately realized he had spotted an extremely rare and endangered species.

About 15 feet high in that tree sat a 200 pound male Jaguar.

At one point, Fenn said the Jaguar climbed down the tree and took off at lightning speed.  His Hound Dogs gave chase, while Fenn ran after them on foot.

After about two miles, Fenn said his dogs had circled around the Jaguar.  Fenn said he was in awe of the big cat in front of him.

"Just the sheer aggressiveness.  The power it had.  It wasn't snarling at us like a mountain lion does, it was roaring.  Roaring and growling like I've never heard before.  It was unreal," said Fenn.

He was worried about his dogs.

"The dogs were so close, the Jaguar was like back off.  He was swiping at them with his paw telling them let me have my space.  I'm trying to get my dogs off the Jaguar, I knew my dogs were going to get killed," said Fenn.

He said that was when he was the most scared, worried the Jaguar would turn on him.  Fenn said at that point, he was only 15-feet away from the Jaguar.

He described it as an amazing moment in his life, but hoped he would never encounter another Jaguar again.

"Just seeing the power of that thing, there's no doubt in my mind, this Jaguar could have taken care of my whole pack of dogs pretty easily,".

Fenn said some of his dogs suffered minor puncture wounds, when the Jaguar swatted at them with it's claws.

He was able to take more than 80 pictures of the Jaguar while it was up on the Mesquite tree.  He also got some video of the Jaguar as it retreated from the group, after they had all backed away.

Fenn decided to release three pictures to the media, and declined to release the video or the rest of the pictures, saying he wanted to keep them private for his family, for now.

It was thought that no jaguars were left in Arizona after the controversial death of one known as "Macho B" in 2009.

Game and Fish officials said this was the first confirmed sighting since 2009.  They have had other reports, but this is the only one that has been confirmed.

Now, officials plan to send the Jaguar's hair to a lab for testing.  They have no plans to monitor the Jaguar or track it.

"We certainly have no plans of capturing or collaring the Jaguar.  That would only take place if the public and conservation groups led us in that direction," said Eric Gardner, the branch chief of the nongame branch of Arizona Game and Fish.

Officials declined to release the exact location of this Jaguar sighting to protect the safety of the animal.

They gave us a vague location, saying the Jaguar had been spotted South of the I-10 corridor in Cochise County.

Officials believed the Jaguar may have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico, where there was an active female breeding program near the border.

Officials said Jaguars are usually found in pretty rough terrain.  The believed the male would wander away from this area, and might be searching for a female.

If you spot a Jaguar, contact your local Game and Fish office immediately.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.