There’s been photographic evidence of seven jaguars in the region over the last 20 years
A wild jaguar was captured on cameras installed by Customs and Border Protection in southern Arizona’s Huachuca Mountains in March and May of this year. The detections were entered into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jaguar observation database and have not yet been released to the public.
Russ McSpadden, a southwest conservation advocate who’s seen the images, recently told Fox 10 that the cat may be a new one to the state.
"The image captures unfortunately don't allow us to determine which cat this is," he told Fox 10.
According to McSpadden, there’s been photographic evidence of seven jaguars in the region and three in southern Arizona since 2015.
This mystery jaguar makes the fourth.
"They nearly disappeared from this part of the range over the last 100 years due to habitat loss," he explained.
Another factor preventing jaguars from inhabiting the area were double-stacked shipping containers that were placed on the southern slopes of the Huachuca Mountains right at the border. The containers have been removed, allowing the cats access to the corridor. Because of that, McSpadden says the jaguar could be one they haven't spotted before.
"It could be a brand-new cat that crossed from Mexico into the United States, or it could be the cat Sombra, which means 'shadow' in Spanish, that has lived in Arizona since 2016," he said.
Whether it’s a new cat or not, the sighting is exciting for those who recognize the rarity of the species in the area.
"Every single time we get a jaguar detection in this very fragile northern population, it's a moment to celebrate," he said. "A lot of folks don't know that jaguars once lived throughout the American Southwest, and they reached as far north as the Grand Canyon and even the mountains of southern Arizona.”
McSpadden said the video footage and images proves that the efforts taken to save these animals from extinction are working.