WATCH: Only known U.S. jaguar, 'El Jefe,' filmed in Arizona mountains

Arizona schoolchildren who named the country's only known jaguar "El Jefe," or "The Boss," can now view a video showing him roaming the domain he's been lording over.

 

The Center for Biological Diversity and research partner Conservation CATalyst on Wednesday released a video compiling views from three trail cameras that captured the jaguar last fall in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

The video is continuing evidence of the only jaguar currently known to be roaming the United States, well north of a known breeding population in Sonora, Mexico.

The jaguar was first photographed in southern Arizona in 2011, and Tucson children voted to name give him the Spanish name "El Jefe." This is the first video of it to be released.

The video shows the spotted cat sitting in front of a camera at night, walking through an oak forest in daytime and traipsing over rocks by a stream.

 

"It's pretty exciting," said Randy Serraglio, a Tucson-based Southwest conservation representative with the Center for Biological Diversity. "He was clearly using the Santa Ritas as his home range."

Jaguars once roamed Arizona at least as far north at the Mogollon Rim, but have been only occasional occupants in the south in recent years. This is the first one documented since the 2009 death of one known as "Macho B," a male that was euthanized after being injured during trapping.

Besides providing the thrill of seeing an endangered cat virtually unknown in the U.S., Serraglio said, the video is a reminder of what's at stake if Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals is allowed to mine copper on private and federal lands in the Santa Ritas, in the Coronado National Forest.

The proposed mine, known as Rosemont, is awaiting permits from the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing its potential effects on endangered species, which include jaguars.

"(El Jefe's) home range is ground zero for the Rosemont Copper mine," Serraglio said. "It's really going to destroy a significant part of his home."

The mining company disagreed.

"Our project will sit on roughly 5,000 acres of the 138,760 acres of the Santa Rita Mountains," Hudbay Rosemont vice president Patrick Merrin said in a written statement, "and constitutes a very small fraction of the jaguar's 50 mile-plus range. We will continue to work with the federal agencies to establish appropriate conservation and mitigation measures for the jaguar and other plants and animals."

The Arizona Game and Fish Department in 2013 signed a non-binding agreement with mine developers prescribing a number of habitat improvements to be covered by the company. It does not mention jaguars, and the state considers the area only occasional jaguar habitat.

If the mine wins necessary permits, the state and company would negotiate a binding agreement for habitat protections, said Jim deVos, who heads Arizona Game and Fish's Wildlife Management Division.

"Arizona is at the extreme northern end of jaguar range," deVos said. "There have been absences as great as 40 years without having a jaguar in Arizona."

The Santa Ritas include jaguar habitat, he agreed, but, "for the continued existence of jaguars, Arizona is insignificant."

 


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