Jaguar Bjørn Christian TørrissenIt seemed that jaguars were gone from the United States. The cat’s historic range extended from northeastern Argentina through Brazil, Central America, Mexico and into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, but by 1969, no female jaguars were thought to exist in the wild in the U.S., and the last male was killed in 1986.

The December 2005 issue of Smithsonian Magazine reports that that may be changing. . .

(photo courtesy of Bjørn Christian Tørrissen)

Jaguars are classified under the genus Panthera which includes four species of “big cats,” the jaguar, tiger, lion and leopard.

In 1996, a rancher and hunting guide photographed a jaguar in southeastern Arizona. Six months later and 150 miles away, two men videotaped a different leopard resting in a tree. One of these men, Jack Childs, was so inspired by the encounter that he traveled to Brazil to learn more about the cats. Then in 1999, he began placing remote, heat-sensing cameras in Arizona that eventually captured images of two different males. In addition, a third jaguar, possibly a female, has been photographed. Of course, researchers hope that the animals, who look healthy and well fed, will breed.

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