5/10/2006

Jaguar Sighted This Year During N.M. Hunt Trip

By Tony Davis
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona Published: 05.01.2006


LORDSBURG, N.M. — At first, when the mountain lion hunters in the hills of Southwest New Mexico saw that one of their dogs had its throat cut, they thought the attacker was a javelina, protecting its young.

Instead, it turned out to be a jaguar, the third recent confirmed in-person sighting of the big cat in the Southwestern United States.

This one occurred in the "Boot Heel" country of the Animas Mountains about 15 miles east of the Arizona border and a mile and a half north of the Mexican border.

The man who spotted and photographed this jaguar on Feb. 20 was Warner Glenn, a Douglas-area rancher and lion hunter who made the first recent confirmed U.S. jaguar sighting in March 1996.

Glenn saw the jaguar under a tree at the bottom of a hillside while chasing one of his dogs. The dog had gotten away from the rancher's lion-hunting party of seven people, including his daughter Kelly Kimbro.

"It took me five minutes to ride down there, to get down the mountain," Glenn recalled last week in an interview. "It was pretty rough. I got to the bottom where the dogs were baying the jaguar, who was backed up under a cedar tree. At that point, I told them on the radio to get down there and help me. He had bitten three of the dogs."

The animal then ran toward others in the hunting party, and then toward Glenn, before leaving "in kind of a long trot" toward the higher part of the mountains.

Before the cat ran away, Glenn photographed him, looking smooth and sleek on a rock on or near a bluff.

The jaguar weighed about 175 to 200 pounds and looked "very healthy," Glenn said at Thursday's Jaguar Conservation Team meeting in Lordsburg. "There's not a blemish on him anywhere."

As for the dogs, all are now fine, with none having been bitten any deeper than into their flesh and hide. None sustained any broken bones. "I had a little veterinary bill but other than that they were fine," Glenn said.

Glenn's March 1996 confirmed U.S. jaguar sighting was in the Peloncillo Mountains at the Arizona-New Mexico border. Six months later, fellow lion hunter Jack Childs and his party treed, photographed and videotaped another adult male jaguar in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson. In addition, a fourth adult male jaguar was photographed in Arizona with a remote sensing camera, first in December 2001 about 4.5 miles north of the Mexican border and again in August 2003, 3.75 miles north of there.

Common in the Southwest until the beginning of the 20th century, the jaguar has ranged south through Mexico and Central America to as far south as Argentina. But a recent survey determined that the animal now occupies only 46 percent of its former range, and it was deemed virtually extirpated in the United States by the mid-1900s.

Evidence exists of only three reports of breeding jaguars in Arizona, the last in about 1910. The jaguar declined sharply in this country through most of the 20th century due to predator-control activities to protect livestock and to human settlement in general, according to a new report from the Arizona and New Mexico Game and Fish Departments. A minimum of 64 jaguars were killed in Arizona after 1900, the report said. The most recent killing came in 1986.

● Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746 or tdavis@azstarnet.com

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