New photos confirm jaguar and ocelot are in Arizona | Environment
Two automated wildlife monitoring cameras, in two separate southern Arizona locations have captured photos of a jaguar and an ocelot, both endangered species who are supposed to be seldom seen this far north.
Both animals are adults males, according to the Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project team, led by the University of Arizona, and appear to be in good health. The latest photos to be taken were in late November, in the Santa Rita Mountains.
These latest photos take the total of jaguar photos up to ten, which were taken by three UA cameras and one Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) camera. According to the UA project the spot pattern, which is unique to each animal, matches a photo taken from a hunter’s canyon in the Whetstone Mountains in 2011. These photos of the same animal provide evidence that at least one jaguar travels between Arizona’s ‘sky island’ mountain ranges.
An earlier tail photo, released in September 2012 by AZGFD, also came from the Santa Rita Mountains on a hunter’s camera but could not be matched to any other existing animals. It cannot be matched due to the obscurity of angle and that it was taken from the opposite side of the animal. UA researchers believe it is from the same animal.
Jaguars aren’t the only endangered species venturing north of the border, there have been new photos of an ocelot released. The most current was taken in the Huachuca Mountains west of Sierra Vista, also by a UA project camera. Using the spot pattern from these latest photos, the project team determined they were of the same animal captured in photos released by AZGFD in 2011 and 2012, also in the Huachuca Mountains. These latest photos were taken about four miles away from the previous location. This proves to researchers that even this smaller cat is roaming the ‘sky islands’ north of the border.
The purpose of the UA research project is to establish a non-invasive, hands-off system for detecting and monitoring jaguars and ocelots. The project is using motion-sensor-activated “trail” cameras placed in areas most likely to detect the spotted cats. Once fully operational, up to 240 paired cameras will be in place throughout the project area to capture images of both sides of detected animals.
The University of Arizona is conducting this large-scale project to detect and monitor jaguars and ocelots along the northern boundary of the U.S.-Mexico international border, from the Baboquivari Mountains in Arizona to the southwestern “boot heel” of New Mexico.
The researchers are also employing a specially-trained scat detection dog to assist the team in collecting potential jaguar and ocelot scat in the areas where a jaguar or ocelot has been detected by camera. The UA Conservation Genetics lab under the leadership of Melanie Culver, U.S. Geological Survey geneticist in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment, will conduct genetic testing of the scat to verify species and possibly identify the individual cats.
The three-year study will be accomplished under a contract with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of these funds is to address and mitigate environmental impacts of border-related enforcement activities.
NOTE: Five of the automated camera ocelot and jaguar photos are posted on Flickr at http://bit.ly/TapYhK (and Facebook album at: http://on.fb.me/TazSP9).