The California Jaguar

Posted by Matthew Rose on

Panthera Arizonensis   

Californians are likely familiar with the Mountain Lion, however most would not expect to hear that their distant cousin, the Jaguar, once roamed the landscape we call home.

Big Cats have a majestic quality about them; likely because of the danger and mystery they possess.  The Jaguar is the third largest cat on Earth, trailing only the African Lion and the Tiger. Coming from the family of Panthera - translated appropriately as predator - they are an apex predator, dominating and controlling the ecosystems in which they are found.  

Americans may expect a cat of this caliber to be restricted to a deep, dark jungle in South America or Asia; or perhaps the Plains of Africa, but for many thousands of years this cat was a native inhabitant of the Southwestern territory of the United States.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on whether Mr. Spots gives you the chills, Jaguars are a threatened species and their presence in the United States has thought to have long ago ended. Like many large mammals, changing environments have rapidly pushed them from their historic range.

Currently, this species of Jaguar (Panthera Arizonensis) can be found from Sonora, Mexico all the way through Brazil, Argentina and Peru. Despite rumored sightings, it has been a commonly held belief that the Jaguar vacated the Unites States many decades ago.

To the surprise of many, earlier this month, after 4 years of dedicated pursuit, Jack Childs - wildlife biologist and film-maker, finally captured one of these elusive cats on camera within the United States borders.

This Jaguar has been named  “El Jefe” and was found roaming in the Santa Rita Mountain Range near Tucson, Arizona with his male compadre. Capturing a Jaguar on camera in Arizona required several years of study and dedication, not to mention extreme patience.

Childs was able to used dogs to track the scat of the Jaguars, he then placed multiple motion sensor cameras throughout the area and waited for this amazing encounter of these two Jaguars just a few miles from the Tucson city limits.

While these cats will likely never return to the wild in California, it serves as a bit of a reminder that our world is more wild than we care to remember.  Even in our developed modern world, natural habitat exists around us everyday. While a Jaguar may be something we never see, you never know what could be lurking around in the dark.

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