Jaguars once ranged from the U.S. to Argentina, but were listed as federally endangered in 1997. Today, most are found in South and Central America; a male occasionally wanders across the border in search of a mate. Debate continues over whether the American Southwest represents true jaguar habitat or the northern edge of its extent, and several livestock associations are suing to challenge the designation of critical habitat for the cat there (“The tenuous fate of the Southwest’s last jaguars,” HCN, 5/30/16).
A previously unknown male jaguar appeared in Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains last December, only the second documented in the U.S. in seven years. In late December the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and bi-national Jaguar Recovery Team released a draft recovery plan that focuses on jaguar conservation in Mexico, and does not include plans for reintroducing females to the Southwest. The Center for Biological Diversity calls it “an extinction plan, not a recovery plan,” saying it fails to restore the species in the U.S.
This story has been updated to correct that most jaguars are found in South and Central America, not Mexico.