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 Chertoff’s Folly 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 (≥2-3 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.
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.