Rewilding means re-introducing an animal to the place that it formerly inhabited before being removed totally (extirpated) from the area.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) have proposed creating a group of “reserves” mainly in southern Arizona, bordering Mexico, into which the jaguar will be re-introduced (or the population expanded).
At one time the jaguar did occupy the United States. It is difficult to imagine that. The FWS hint that this large wild cat species might still be present in the USA. They refer to the last cat being shot by a hunter in 1982 (can that person please step forward and make himself known to us).
I believe that the FWS are being optimistic in their assessment that the jaguar still inhabits the USA. But they claim that since 1996 the designed area (the proposed area for new reserves) has seen occupancy by jaguars. That information seems to have got back to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ as they indicate in their range map for the species that there are three small pockets of land where there might be ‘vagrant’ jaguars within the designated area. If this is true the exercise is not ‘rewilding’ but an artificial expansion of the existing population.
The jaguar still occupies parts of Mexico (fragmented coastal regions), Central America and primarily South America. It is a wild cat that lives in topical and subtropical habitats and is associated with water. The jaguar likes water and is a strong swimmer.
It is the third largest wild cat species after the tiger and lion and is about one third again larger than than the cougar. It is a genuine big cat that has real presence and strength with the highest bite force of all the wild cat species. It is far more intimidating than the cougar which is relatively shy and cute by comparison.
So why try and re-introduce this splendid wild cat into proposed, protected fragmented areas totaling 838,000 acres in southern United States that includes southern Arizona and the south-western corner of New Mexico? Can it work? My immediate thought is of the huge difficulties that India struggles with in respect of the Bengal tiger. The enormous efforts to conserve the tiger in the wild are failing. Can America do better with the jaguar?
Is there something about this project that we don’t know about?. There are plenty of people in America who’d like to shoot a jaguar as a trophy. Will there be regulated hunting? Is that the motivator or a partial reason behind this ambitious project?
With the population of America rising consistently year on year protecting a park will become increasingly difficult. Also I notice that the protected areas are relatively small (see below). Are they capable of sustaining a group of jaguars that will be able to breed naturally? Individual male jaguars require a home range of about 60 square miles (about 152 km²). My assessment of the protected areas are that one parcel of the group of areas is about the same size. To me, this indicates that the protected cannot support a self-sustaining group of jaguars. Certainly units five and six couldn’t. This would imply that the FWS want to create a sort of man made large zoo.
The area is: in Pima, Santa Cruz, and Cochise Counties, Arizona, and Hidalgo County, New Mexico (per the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s document about this project: Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Jaguar).
I have loosely marked out the area where the proposed ‘jaguar reserves’ will be sited below. I also present a screenshot from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s document above. I don’t think they will mind. If some one does please leave a comment and I’ll react to it quickly.
View USA 838,000 Acres Protected for Jaguar in a larger map
A regular contributor, Dan Wilhelm, living in the USA made this useful comment in an email to me:
….if NE Arizona/NW New Mexico are large enough to have over 1100 wolves, in what must be a enormous number of packs, then our SE Texas/Southern New Mexico/Southern Arizona must surely have room for a few jaguars. The north part of New Mexico is amazingly sparse people wise, but when you add in SE Texas and the fact that there still very few population centers in across the Southern end of our states, we should be able to accommodate the Jaguars, Ocelots and perhaps some Jaguarondi’s that used to haunt our desertscape. By the way, the US Fish and Wildlife use F or M as the beginning of a tagged animals name and than a unique number. So the fact that her name is F1188, means there are that many currently around. (I believe the reuse old numbers when they find dead wolves – if not my whole theory is off a bit.)