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Know the West

A collar for a big kitty


Scientists studying black bears and mountain lions near Tucson, Ariz. found a surprise in one of their traps this week -- a 120-lb. male jaguar. They put a radio tracking collar on the big cat and released him. Now, for the first time ever, biologists will get regular updates on the location of a U.S. jaguar. The rare cat was added to the endangered species list in 1997, and over the past 10 years several have been caught on film in Arizona and New Mexico.

One of the biggest threats to jaguars, which regularly roam between Mexico and the U.S., is Homeland Security --  border fencing slices the animal's habitat into two disconnected chunks, and prevents breeding between different populations (see our story Cat Fight on the Border). 

Tony Davis, a regular HCN contributor, reports in the Arizona Daily Star:

The study on habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears that produced the accidental capture of the jaguar was intended, in part, to analyze the effects of new border fencing on the two large animals, (Jack L. Childs, project coordinator for the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project) said.

With this jaguar collared, officials now have a great opportunity to analyze the effects of the fencing. As long as the jaguar remains alive and the collar continues to work, they'll be able to follow the movements of the cat for about two years, he said. 

Perhaps the tracking data will give jaguar conservationists more ammo in their fight to preserve the big cat.