Federal Court Rules To Protect Jaguars In The United States

jaguar conservation

Jaguars are an endangered species throughout North America and for them borders don’t mean anything, so they aren’t aware whether they are in Mexico or the United States. This means that if the species is to recover there needs to be efforts made on both side of the border. Recently a Federal court in New Mexico recognised this fact when it ruled against an attempt by ranchers and cattle groups who were trying to reverse habitat protections established for the big cats.

Maintaining critical habitat

In 2014 The US Fish and Wildlife service established a critical habitat consisting of 59,000 acres for jaguars. The recent ruling from the court maintains the protection of jaguars under the Endangered Species Act and this means that the Federal Government is prevented from making the habitat unusable for jaguars. A further 705,903 acres in Arizona was also designated as protected habitat but that decision has not been challenged.

Huge victory for jaguar conservation

Conservationists say the ruling is a huge win for jaguars who can continue to live in parts of the remote and rugged borderlands of New Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity says far more habitat should have been protected, extending the area farther North to include the wild Gila National Forest. However, without the desert country along the border, it would simply be impossible for jaguars to travel farther North. The Center was the organisation that filed the lawsuit which resulted in the jaguar being listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Jaguars evolved in the United States

Of all the big cats, the jaguar is the third-largest species after tigers and lions. They are in fact native to North America and paleontological evidence has found that they roamed as far as Nebraska and Maryland. This suggests the species evolved in what is today the United States before migrating towards Central and South America. Historically jaguars have been seen in the mountains of Southern California as well as the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Jaguars have been spotted in the North-Eastern part of New Mexico as well as the Texas panhandle. In fact, jaguar sightings have occurred as far afield as Louisiana, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Last female jaguar killed in 1963

Jaguars disappeared from the United States as a result of habitat destruction and retaliatory killings to protect livestock and hunting to obtain pelts. The last female jaguar in the United States was shot and killed by a hunter in 1963. Jaguar numbers in Mexico continue to fall but despite that fact one or two of them arrive in the United States periodically. Over the last year, two new males were photographed in the South-Eastern part of Arizona.

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