Say cheese: Rare jaguar sighting caught on camera in southern Arizona mountain range

Sep 27, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2023, 9:23 am

A potentially new jaguar was photographed in southern Arizona twice earlier this year. The photogra...

A potentially new jaguar was photographed in southern Arizona twice earlier this year. The photographs have not yet been released to the public. (University of Arizona Jaguar and Ocelot Monitoring Project Photo)

(University of Arizona Jaguar and Ocelot Monitoring Project Photo)

PHOENIX — Trail cameras have captured two rare photos of a wild jaguar in a southern Arizona mountain range earlier this year.

The photos, from March and May, show just the second jaguar to be detected in the Huachuca Mountains since 2016, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service database.

Officials have not yet released the photos but believe the big cat could be either one that hasn’t yet been documented or “jaguar 3,” better known as Sombra, who has been photographed in the nearby Chiricahua Mountains.

The photos of this potentially new jaguar were taken after the shipping container border wall was removed. The wall had invaded a jaguar migration corridor in the Huachuca Mountains.

“These photos show that despite so many obstacles, jaguars continue to reestablish territory in the United States,” Russ McSpadden, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release.

“This is a wonderful reminder that these big cats move great distances across the landscape. It drives home the importance of protecting connected habitat for these elusive, beautiful felines.”

What’s the history of jaguars in Arizona?

Jaguars have mostly disappeared from the region over the past 150 years, making the sightings a big occurrence.

A big cat named El Jefe occupied the Whetstone and Santa Rita mountains from 2011-2015 before reemerging on a trail camera in Mexico in 2022.

A young male named Yo’oko was photographed in the Huachuca Mountains in 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately, Yo’oko was photographed dead in Mexico in 2018.

Sombra, the Chiricahua Mountains jaguar, has been captured on camera several times since 2016.

Overall, seven jaguars have been photographed by cameras in the United States in the past 20 years, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Say cheese: Rare jaguar sighting caught on camera in southern Arizona mountain range