Sole jaguar in America caught on camera in Arizona - Tucson News Now

Sole jaguar in America caught on camera in Arizona

Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst) Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst)
Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst) Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst)
Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst) Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst)
Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst) Jaguar seen roaming around a creek and other parts of a mountain range just south of Tucson (Source: Center for Biological Diversity and Conservation CATalyst)
(Source: USFWS) (Source: USFWS)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Exciting images caught on camera show, for the first time, the only known wild jaguar in America on the prowl, and he lives right here in Arizona.

"Jaguars have historically always occurred in Arizona," Aletris Neils, executive director of Conservation CATalyst, said excitedly. "This jaguar, 'El Jefe' is the only jaguar that's verified in Arizona."  

[RELATED: Video shows only known US jaguar roaming Arizona mountains]

El Jefe, which means 'the boss' in Spanish, has been roaming the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson for more than three years.

[RELATED: Students name Arizona jaguar]

The video was posted – and reposted, and reposted again and again– on Facebook Wednesday. Arizonans, of course, are especially excited to have the giant cat spotted in our own backyard.

"As you can imagine, documenting them in the state is like trying to find … it's way worse than a needle in a haystack," Neils said. "They're so naturally elusive and they move so much that it's very challenging to find them in these remote areas.

Neils says researchers at Conservation CATalyst have been tracking the jaguar since 2011, setting up cameras at different points around the mountain range, and using dogs to sniff out where the jaguar often goes. But where did El Jefe come from?

Neils says his whole story is unknown.

"There are multiple possibilities," she explained. "It could be there is a female that is undetected in Arizona and she gave birth to him which would be really neat."

Political animals might suggest a birther controversy behind El Jefe taking residence in the Santa Ritas.

"We know of breeding jaguars less than 100 miles from the border. So, it's more likely that he was born in Mexico and decided for whatever reason, to disperse and keep looking for habitat and wound up in Arizona and has really enjoyed it because he's decided to stay!"

But his extended stay could wind up getting cut short. A local mining project could threaten the giant cat's habitat.

"The proposed Rosemont Copper Mine is really smack dab in the middle of his territory." Neils said.

At the bare minimum, he would have to move.

"Which is scary, because of all the places he's spent time dispersing and investigating other areas, this is where he's chosen to reside."

And without reliable food and water resources, it's unclear if El Jefe would survive.

"We need to decide right now if we want to have jaguars in the U.S. because if we do, we need to protect this single jaguar," Neils said. "It's up to us to protect him." 

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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