A jaguar has been spotted roaming wild in the U.S., the first since 2009. But while the animal wanders the Arizona mountains, he's become the center of a debate over protecting the state's wildlife.
The latest photos come from a Freedom of Information Act request by the Arizona Daily Star (although it looks like some photos were already publicly available via the southwestern branch of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Flickr account), and his predicament has been written about before. They were taken using federally-funded cameras from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the past several months after a hunter showed authorities a photograph of a jaguar's tail, taken nearby. As the paper notes the jaguar was spotted within the boundaries of an area up for designation as a critical habitat for jaguars. And, that site just happens to be host to the same land where one company would like to open up an open pit copper mine. The wildlife service is planning on making a decision about the habitat designation on August 20 of this year.
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
In Arizona, state agencies have contradictory opinions on the animal's bearing on the habitat decision, and on the mine. While the state's Forest Service has concluded that the mine is "likely to adversely affect" any jaguars in the area, Game and Fish doesn't think the designation is necessary (via the Daily Star):
"That solitary male jaguar is no reason for critical habitat. We don't have any breeding pairs...If that was critical habitat, we would still be doing the same thing that we are doing today. We are not harassing that jaguar or modifying normal activities there that are lawful today."
As the New York Times's Green Blog (RIP) noted back in January, the site of the proposed habitat hosts 10 endangered species in total, including the jaguar. Jaguars are believed to cross into the U.S. from northern Mexico, where there's a larger population of the big cats.