To create a recovery plan for returning the Jaguar to the US and to dramatically expand the critical habitat range that has currently been given. Speak to National Park officials about recovery of the cat in the Grand Canyon. Work directly with Mexican officials to ensure good habitat on the Mexican side of the border to allow migration.
Perhaps the most mythical and wild of animals that once inhabited the United States, the jaguar, continues to cross into New Mexico and Arizona leaving tantalizing clues and evidence that they belong. Sightings have been recorded as far north as Silver City, New Mexico and in one famous encounter between New Mexico rancher Warner Glenn and a Jaguar that had moved north onto his ranch. What evolved were some amazing photos Glenn took of the visitor that turned into a book.
Sadly, there remains the same level of rancher animosity towards the jaguar they can be found with wolves and other predators. The US Fish and Wildlife Service continue a pattern of weak leadership on Endangered Species and their continued cuddling of ranching interests despite sound science.
In 1997, Jaguars was listed as an endangered species. Yet, as can be expected, the agency the US Fish and Wildlife Service has made little or no effort to recover the species. Nor has a recovery plan been developed.
Jaguars once roamed the southwestern states, but were driven off by development, ranching interests and hunting. At one point, Jaguars could be found as far north as the Grand Canyon. Critical habitat remains a key ingredient to creating a sustainable population. Once extirpated from the US, in the past 20 years, Jaguars have begun to migrate across our border as evidenced by photos and tracks.
For the past seven years efforts to protect Jaguar habitat have been through the courts with US Fish and Wildlife as usual dragging their feet and Arizona Game and Fish opposing any plan for habitat protections. Arizona Game and Fish would illegally and quietly capture one Jaguar that had come to the US with a snare. Known as Macho B, the cat was extremely stressed by its capture and died two weeks later. What many understood is that some were looking for potentially lucrative wildlife grants for the agency. In return despite the killing of the animal, the scientists involved were given new contracts on the border and more equipment.
'63 jaguar killing echoes today in habitat debate
"Oh, boy, I felt kind of like Superman," Penrod says one recent day. The cat's thick pelt, still yellow with brown spots, is on his living room wall in front of him, to the right of the fireplace. "Just how many people had called in a jaguar with a varmint caller? I was the only one."
Back in the 1980s, he says, someone offered him $10,000 for the hide. "I thought, in two weeks the $10,000 will be gone and the cat will be, too. I just kept him."
Records "Not Entirely Solid"
A scholarly 2001 book, "Borderlands Jaguars," lists more than 30 jaguars, including the one Penrod shot, that were killed in Arizona and New Mexico in the 20th century outside of the proposed critical habitat. Most were in the Mogollon Rim area and in the Gila River watershed, which encompasses the Gila and Santa Cruz rivers and their tributaries.
But Arizona Game and Fish, in opposing jaguar critical habitat, says few have been found in the U.S. since 1962: 10 to 12, all but one male with the sex of the other unknown. Earlier records are "not entirely solid" and harder to verify due to their age, said Larry Riley, the department's assistant director for wildlife management.
Assuming a worldwide jaguar population of 30,000, "in 35 of the 50 years since 1962, the U.S. has had zero percent of the population and in 15 years from 0.003 to 0.01 percent," Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles wrote the wildlife service last October. "At this time, it is not biologically sound or justifiable to designate less than 1 percent of habitat that accounts for less than 0.003 to 0.001 percent of the jaguar population."
The wildlife service's own habitat proposal, Voyles pointed out, says jaguar recovery will happen mostly outside the U.S. because so little of the cat's home range is here. "This accurate statement," he wrote, "refutes the need to establish critical habitat in the U.S."
But that refers to the animal's current range, wrote Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. Jaguars used to occupy a far larger area in the U.S. - they lived in North Carolina and Kentucky in the 1800s, as well as along the headwaters of the Platte River and the Rio Grande in Colorado, he wrote in his comments on the federal habitat proposal.
He also quoted a 1919 scientific journal account of a pair of jaguars at a den with two kittens in the Tehachapi Mountains of Southern California. Its author, C. Hart Merriam, was head of the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service's predecessor.
In the past, Robinson says, multiple scientists and government officials have referred to past jaguar records and have not cast doubt on them.
"The fact that jaguars were persecuted to the point where they lost their native home in the Southwest is exactly why recovery is needed," Robinson says.
The Wildlife Conservation Society wrote in its critical habitat comment that mountain ranges in Central Arizona and New Mexico "may represent unique habitat for the jaguar essential to the species."
The Arizona Game and Fish Department isn't convinced of the need to redefine the jaguar's northern range. It has questioned whether the jaguar Penrod shot was there naturally, saying its agents suspected the animal was planted by a hunting guide. Partly due to that, the Fish and Wildlife Service has classified the White Mountains-Mogollon Rim area as peripheral habitat, meaning it won't be a key part of its jaguar recovery plan.
Environmentalists at the Center for Biological Diversity scoff at the idea that the jaguar was planted. They say Game and Fish's 2011 report raising the issue contained no hard evidence.
But Game and Fish consultant Terry Johnson, who co-wrote the report, says the evidence "is sufficient to discount these animals as legitimate, natural occurrences." In saying otherwise, he says, the center is pushing "its agenda of increased regulatory control of public and other lands."
The guide suspected of releasing the jaguar, the late C.J. Prock, has acknowledged releasing imported mountain lions and jaguars in other cases. But David Brown, an author and Arizona State University wildlife biologist, says he asked Prock specifically about the Penrod jaguar. Prock said he hadn't imported it.
"They're jungle types"
Now 74, Penrod is a retired heavy equipment operator and lumber grader. He still lives in Lakeside.
He doesn't see a future for the jaguar in the White Mountains.
A male was shot by a tribal trapper near Whiteriver on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in January 1964, just months after Penrod shot the female. Before that, the last known jaguar killing in the area was in 1924 near Cibecue, about 30 miles south of Show Low.
"This is not their habitat - they're jungle types. I doubt they could even make a winter in this elevation," Penrod says. "I think the one in Cibecue, like this one, if I hadn't killed it, it would have wandered out of here."
Penrod says he's glad the jaguar is protected and listed as endangered in the U.S. today. If he saw the big cat on a hunting trip now, he says, he would put down his gun and report the sighting.
Still, he's proud of that pelt on his wall alongside his other kills: an antelope and a bobcat, a javelina and a wild turkey, a bighorn sheep, a mountain lion and a bear.
In 2011, the massive Wallow Fire forced Penrod and his wife to flee their home for a time. They took the trophies with them.
"The only good thing about that," he says, "is that I gave them a good cleaning before they got put back up."
what is Critical habitat?
Under the Endangered Species Act, critical habitat is an area that is considered essential for conservation of an endangered species. It can include land that isn't currently occupied by that species if it's necessary for the species' recovery. The act forbids any federal or federally approved project from destroying critical habitat or making it unfit for an endangered species.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contact reporter Tony Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-7746.