Monday, December 08, 2008

Jaguar returns to Arizona

Macho B back in AZ!
By swjags

Here's an early Christmas present for jaguar lovers: after a long
absence Macho B has been seen again in Arizona! I had feared that...
[the border wall] had ruined the big guy's chances in the US, but I'm
happy to say I was wrong. But there's no time for complacency; we
need to keep pushing for wild cats and wild lands! Anyway, here's a
informative update from Emil McCain of the Borderlands Jaguar
Detection Project:

Arizona jaguar still roams north of the U.S./Mexico border fence: an
update from the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project.

Emil B. McCain, Janay Brun, and Jack L. and Anna Mary Childs

Perhaps the most photographed and widely-known wild jaguar ever was
recently caught on film again in southern Arizona. After more than
one year since the last photograph of a jaguar was taken in the U.S.,
the jaguar commonly known as Macho B, has again passed in front of
the trail cameras monitored by the Borderlands Jaguar Detection
Project. Macho B was first photographed as a young adult (¡Ý2-3 years
old) in August 1996 by hunters Jack Childs and Matt Colvin (Childs
1998). He has since been photographed dozens of times by the
Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project¡¯s camera monitoring effort along
the U.S./Mexico border between 2004 and 2007 (McCain and Childs
2008). Macho B was last photographed in July of 2007, at which time
he was at least 13-14 years old, a very respectable age for any wild
jaguar. After more than one year with no new photographs, it became
widely assumed that Macho B was no longer with us. Many believed that
he had either died of old age, been killed or had been physically
kept out of the U.S. study area by the various border security
infrastructures. Well, Macho B has once again surprised us all.

At dawn on 29 July 2008, Macho B passed by a camera hidden in a
remote canyon some 20 miles from the Mexico border. He was traveling
to the south. Four days later, on 2 August 2008, and nine miles
further south, Macho B passed by another one of our trail cameras.
Thick and robust in the photographs, he appeared healthy and in good
shape. He was at least 14-15 years old as of August 2008.

Where has he been all this time and where is he headed next? We wish
we knew. We assume that we would have had some record of him during
the past year if he was within the study area. We have maintained
continuous wide-spread monitoring with trail cameras and track/scat
surveys (Henschel and Ray 2003, McCain and Childs 2008) throughout
the expansive range that Macho B had used over the previous several
years. The previous jaguar data from our study have generally come
in bursts, with multiple data points recorded during a given time
period, followed by a period of absence before the next burst (McCain
and Childs 2008). This pattern most likely reflects a relatively
high detection probability when a jaguar is within the study area. It
is possible that long periods with no detections signify that no
jaguar is present within the area surveyed during that time. So the
question remains, where was Macho B for the past year? Many may
argue that he may have been in Mexico. However, the fact is that when
last photographed in 2007, he was some 50 miles north of the
US/Mexico border, and the two new photographs show him well north of
the border, traveling from some unknown northern area. So far, we
have been able to survey only twelve percent of the area in Arizona
that, according to confirmed jaguar records from the last 100 years,
as well as multiple habitat attributes, contains potentially suitable
jaguar habitat (Hatten et al. 2005). There is more unsurveyed jaguar
habitat in New Mexico, including two mountain ranges where two
different jaguars have been seen in the past dozen years (Glenn 1996,
Glenn pers. comm. 2006). We have no idea where Macho B has been or
where he may be headed next. We also have no idea how many other
jaguars may be out there that, like Macho B, may have slipped through
the desert¡¯s shadows, and avoided being seen or detected by anyone
except for our hidden cameras.

We are only beginning to scratch the surface in learning about
jaguars in Arizona¡¯s desert environments at the northern extreme of
the species range. The Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project is a
small organization with limited resources, but we have drastically
changed the current scientific understanding of this majestic species
in the United States. Funding has been meager and difficult to come
by, but we are determined to stay on the jaguar¡¯s trail. We are
still learning, still exploring new country, still hoping to find
more jaguars and that those jaguars can continue to thrive in the
vast wild terrain of the borderlands. We hope that our recent
findings will draw new collaborators to the project and open new
doors to funding opportunities that would facilitate the continuation
and expansion of our research.

Literature Cited

Childs, J. L. 1998. Tracking the felids of the Borderlands. Printing
Corner Press, El Paso, Texas.

Glenn, W. 1996. Eyes of Fire: Encounter with a Borderlands jaguar.
Printing Corner Press, El Paso, Texas.

Hatten, J. R., A. Averill-Murray, and W. E. Van Pelt. 2005. A spatial
model of potential jaguar habitat in Arizona. Journal of Wildlife
Management 69:1024-1033.

Henschel, P., and J. Ray. 2003. Leopards in African rainforests:
survey and monitoring techniques. Wildlife Conservation Society
Global Carnivore Program, New York.

McCain, E. B., and J. L. Childs. 2008. Evidence of resident jaguars
(Panthera onca) in the southwestern United States and the
implications for conservation. Journal of Mammalogy 89:1-10.


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