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Group Presses Feds to Improve Jaguar Recovery Plan

Bringing Jaguars Back to the U.S. Southwest (Defenders of Wildlife and the UCLA Dept. of Geography)
March 22, 2017

PHOENIX – Jaguars once roamed much of the southwest but now, there are only three thought to be living in the U.S., all in Arizona, according to a new report.

The group Defenders of Wildlife has analyzed the Jaguar Draft Recovery Plan released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December. That plan said the area between the border and Interstate 10 in Arizona and New Mexico could only support two to four female jaguars - not enough to sustain a population.

As Senior Southwest Representative for Defenders of Wildlife, study author Rob Peters said they shouldn't discount the millions of acres of prime habitat north of the freeway.

"First of all, they just have to have a goal getting a viable breeding population established in the U.S., which would require having animals north of I-10," he explained.

Other research indicates that by including the area north of I-10, the habitat could support up to 250 jaguars.

The federal draft recovery plan primarily recommends helping Mexico preserve its native jaguar population. Experts believe the jaguars that live in Arizona's Huachuca and Dos Cabezas Mountains were likely born in Mexico and then made their way north.

Peters also warned that President Donald Trump's border wall could spell doom for the population's recovery in the U.S.

"The border wall, if it's constructed the way the administration would like, would be a disaster for jaguars and other wildlife in the southwest," he said. "Unless the Fish and Wildlife Service is willing to translocate jaguars, it's the end of jaguars in the U.S. if that wall gets built."

Peters noted that President Trump's proposed budget, which cuts 12 percent from the U.S. Interior Department, could lead to cuts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and less money for recovery of endangered species in general.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ