While I was in Brazil looking at wild jaguars a few months ago the subject of El Jefe briefly came up, still having jaguars on my mind since my return I started wandering if there was any news of El Jefe. After a search of the web and reading a few interesting articles I thought I would add an update.
It seems that the researcher Chris Bugbee who has been following El Jefe with the aid of a failed border patrol dog a Belgian Malinois called Mayke that he has trained to find jaguar and ocelot scat, got in to some trouble for releasing that video. Unfortunately as so often seems to be the way of the world but a big Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals Inc wants to establish an opencast copper mine in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains El Jefe’s US home. Environmentalists not surprisingly decided to try and use the presence of El Jefe to try and get the mine stopped well he is a bit more charismatic than a Chiracahua leopard frog. However the USFWS are happy that the mine should go ahead they think that El Jefe will just go elsewhere and that his loss would in any case not threaten the survival of jaguars. For the survival of the species jaguars in Central and South America matter a single US jaguar doesn’t. They also didn’t want the video released claiming that it might give away El Jefe’s location and which could lead to him being targeted by hunters. The copper mine will in theory create 400 local jobs so it’s not hard to imagine that some local people fearing that El Jefe will scupper the mine might be tempted to go into the mountains to try and kill him. From their point of view why should one itinerant Mexican jaguar stand in the way of 400 US jobs? At the moment at least it seems that he might have headed back south across the border to his birthplace the Northern Jaguar Reserve in Sonora Mexico in search of a mate as there are no females in the US.
The Return of the Great American Jaguar
Is El Jefe, nation's only know jaguar, endangered by mine plan?
After he’s found a mate me might perhaps wander back north over the border and up into the Santa Ritas again, it doesn’t now seem that likely that Mr Trump’s infamous wall will be being built anytime soon but I’ve no doubt more obstacles of some sort will be put up on the border. I hope whatever happens that male jaguars will still be able to cross the border for the foreseeable future. Indeed it seems as though another male may in fact already have made it across the border as a photo of a different male that has taken in the Huachuca Mountains has just appeared.
New jaguar roams Southern Arizona, photo indicates
I don’t think breeding in the US though is ever likely I doubt any females will make the same journey north. The last known female in the US was shot by a hunter in 1963.
I entirely understand jaguar expert Dr Alan Rabinowitz’s view that spending money on saving jaguars in Arizona is a waste of money that could be better spend on protecting more important populations further south. However even if it is more romantic than realistic I still hope that work in the Northern Jaguar Reserve to protect the jaguars of Sonora and the protection of suitable habitat north of the border will eventually lead to jaguars breeding again in the US some day.
In the prehistoric past Jaguars in both North and South America were much larger, they became a fair bit smaller in size following the extinction of the Pleistocene megafauna without so many big animals to hunt there was an advantage in not being so big. However they are still extremely powerful animals, evidence from the remains of a black bear found in the Santa Rita’s suggest that the bear was killed by El Jefe this is the first record of a jaguar killing a bear. In the past I would guess that encounters between jaguars and bears would not have been that unusual, in Mexico and the US South West jaguars would have overlapped with both the American black bear and the now presumed extinct Mexican grizzly Ursus arctos nelsoni. I would guess that jaguars would have avoided grizzly bears even though these bears were slightly smaller than their surviving northern counterparts they would still have been very formidable animals. Mind you black bears are still pretty big and powerful, it may be significant that in this case the black bear was a young animal and therefore not quite as dangerous prey to go for as a full grown black bear would’ve been. Whatever the circumstances a jaguar killing a bear is pretty interesting, tigers which are obviously far larger do kill and eat Asian black bears on occasion but that’s maybe not too surprising given how powerful tigers are.
AMERICA'S CELEBRITY JAGUAR 'EL JEFE' IS A BEAR HUNTER
The dog Mayke is as I mentioned also trained to find ocelot scat; there are apparently just 50 or so of these beautiful small cats surviving in South Texas, unless measures to protect them are stepped up they could soon be extinct in the US. The biggest problem seems to be cats killed crossing roads I hope they can sort this out.
A Shocking Surge of Ocelot Deaths in Texas
In Arizona they’re even rarer no one knows how many there are but one was photographed and filmed after being treed by some dogs in the Huachuca Mountains back in 2012 a second one has also been seen there and one was filmed by one of the same camera traps in the Santa Ritas that caught El Jefe. Assuming that Mayke is still on duty they may have some idea if this ocelot is still around. I don’t know why ocelots are so rare in Arizona they don’t pose a danger to livestock (other than poultry) in the way that jaguars do, but I assume that they were probably still persecuted, I would have thought that they should have more chance of making a comeback than Jaguars.
Ocelot photographed on mine site's doorstep
Nation’s wild-cat hot spot is in Santa Rita Mountains