Recently, a jaguar named El Jefe (The Boss) was caught on camera walking around the Santa Rita Mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona. Why is this big news? El Jefe is thought to be the only jaguar currently north of the Mexican border in the United States. El Jefe has been spotted on nature trail cameras before, but this is the first time conservationists have successfully been able to film him.
In the 19th century, jaguars roamed throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, but the big cats did not mix well with ranchers and farmers in the American West, so they gradually disappeared from the U.S., with the last known female gone by the 1960s.
Today, although rare, a lone wandering male jaguar like El Jefe will occasionally make an appearance in the U.S. There have been less than a half dozen sightings since the 1990s. These males come from the Sonora area of Mexico, 125 miles to the south. Young males are usually driven out of the territory where they were born and set out on their own. Luckily for El Jefe and the few other males who make it across the border, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has set aside over 760,000 acres in New Mexico and Arizona as critical jaguar habitat.
Experts doubt that a female jaguar would make such a long journey, and the chances of a breeding population getting established in the U.S. are slim.
To learn more about El Jefe and see him on video, check out National Geographic’s website.
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