Photos of the only known wild jaguar to live in the United States were captured in December 2012 by wildlife cameras set up as part of a research project by the University of Arizona.
The new photos of a male jaguar in the Santa Rita mountains of Southern Arizona represent the first jaguar to be spotted in the United States since 2009, according to the Atlantic Wire, which noted that several grainy pictures of the big cat were posted on Flickr by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Jaguars that roam the United States are part of a population that live in Mexico, and were listed by the Service as endangered in 1997. In August 2012, the USFWS announced a proposal to designate a little more than 838,000 acres of land a critical habitat in southern Arizona and New Mexico to protect the species. The designated area contains features that are essential to the conservation of jaguars, the Service argues, and therefore may require special protection.
Since the jaguar was spotted within the proposed critical habit, it gave the Service’s request more weight.
The proposal will reach a final ruling on August 20, according to the Arizona Daily Star, but has generated criticism, especially from opponents who would like to see a chunk of land near where the jaguar was spotted turned into a copper mining site.
Some also question whether the critical habitat will even be effective at protecting or restoring the jaguar population.
Others believe the designated critical habitat is key for jaguar recovery.
“It’s hard to see how an area with possibly the only jaguar living in the wild in the United States, how that habitat would not be essential to recovery here,” environmental activist Michael Robinson told the Daily Star.
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