Jaguar - Illustration by Bill Singleton


Pantera onca arizonensis

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest cat native to the Western Hemisphere. It is characterized by yellowish-brown fur with dark rosette markings. The lower region of the tail is ringed in black and the tips of the ears have black edges. Jaguars are powerfully built, with large heads and strong limbs. The weight of an adult male averages around 120­200 pounds, while the females weigh slightly less.

The jaguar's habitat varies from wet lowland habitats on its center range to arid habitats along its northern range.

The jaguar can be a far ranging animal, traveling distances up to 500 miles. They may become sedentary depending on availability of food. The jaguar is territorial and marks its boundaries with scents. The home range of the jaguar is between 10 and 40 square kilometers.1 In North America, the historic range of the jaguar included Arizona up to the Grand Canyon and the mountains south of it, southwest New Mexico, and southeast California. The current range is considered by many to include Mexico, Central America, and as far south as Argentina in South America.2

Jaguars breed year round with about a 100-day gestation period. A litter of one to four cubs is usually produced, with the average being two cubs. Cubs remain with their mother for two years. A female jaguar matures at three years, a male at four years of age.

The jaguar's diet includes up to eighty-five species. Some prey species include the javelina, deer, turtle, birds, fish, and livestock. On the U.S. and Mexico borderlands, javelina and deer are presumed to be the jaguar's primary food source.

On July 22, 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted endangered status to the jaguar throughout its range under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The jaguar is now listed endangered in the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. In the United States, illegal shooting is the greatest threat to the jaguar.2

Jaguars and Pima County:
In Arizona, there have been at least 64 jaguars killed since 1900. Within the past twenty years, several confirmed sightings have occurred in Pima County. In 1988, a jaguar was observed in Altar Valley and in the Baboquivari Mountains March of 1996, a jaguar was spotted and confirmed with video and photographs. In 2001, a young male jaguar was documented by a motion activated camera south of Tucson, near the Mexican border. Unconfirmed sightings have been reported in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

Southeastern Pima County has been included as potential habitat for the jaguar (as designated by the Jaguar Conservation Committee).3 Possible habitat sites have been identified as south of I-10, and includes mountain ranges in southeast Arizona and as far west as the Baboquivari Mountains. The Rincon Mountains have also been included for several reasons: 1) the historic presence of jaguars, 2) the funnel effect created by the Rincons, Santa Rita, and Empire mountains, 3) the connecting corridor to the Empire Mountains (currently used by other big predators).4

In order to thrive or even persist in Arizona, the jaguar needs to be protected from death by shooting or traps. An adequate food base and movement corridors connected to source populations in Mexico are needed.




2. Doddridge, Joseph. "Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule to Extend Endangered Status for the Jaguar in the United States." Federal Register. July 22, 1997. Vol 62, No. 140. pp 9147-39157.

3. Summary notes on Jaguar Habitat Committee Meeting. June 29, 1998.

4. Jaguar Conservation Team Final Summary Notes. July 30, 1998.



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