09:06 PM

For Immediate Release

More than 760,000 Acres of Habitat Remain Protected for the Elusive, Native Jaguar

WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2017) – Yesterday a federal judge affirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's designation of more than 760,000 acres of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the critical habitat in response to suits filed by Defenders of Wildlife and our partners in 2008. Defenders of Wildlife was an intervenor in this case.

Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, issued the following statement:

“For jaguars to recover in the Southwest, it is crucial to keep the big cats’ designated habitat protected. We’re glad to see that a federal court has recognized such a critical element to U.S. jaguar recovery and kept more than 760,000 acres of jaguar habitat protected. While there’s much more we can do to recover a natural and cultural icon of the Americas, this ruling is an important step to keep the hope for U.S. jaguar recovery alive.”


The jaguar is native to parts of the Southwestern United States and has been fully protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1997. Long considered extirpated in the U.S., native jaguars have been reappearing in the U.S. Southwest over the past few decades. Because El Jefe and Macho B lived for years in the U.S. we know there is plenty of food to sustain these jaguars, including white-tailed deer and javelina, a pig-like animal.

These migrating male jaguars are likely come to the U.S. from a population 100 miles south of the border in Sonora, Mexico. Female jaguars, by nature, are less likely to make the long trip across the hazardous borderlands. In this case, a breeding population in the U.S. may depend on reintroducing females. Translocation – or moving animals – could help establish both females and males when dispersal is cut off by major highways or further development of the border wall.

Defenders of Wildlife and Jaguar Recovery

Defenders of Wildlife has been involved in jaguar recovery for over 20 years, including protecting critical habitat for jaguars from damaging mining projects and helping jaguars coexist with ranchers. In response to Defenders’ 2008 joint lawsuit, FWS finalized critical habitat designation in 2014 for 764,207 acres of habitat for endangered jaguars in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

Modelling done for the habitat subcommittee of the original Interagency Jaguar Conservation Team, which included Defenders, previously identified large amounts of potential habitat in Arizona and New Mexico. The newly-released recovery plan sets the northern boundary for the jaguar recovery area artificially at Interstate 10, excluding large amounts of habitat north of I-10.

For jaguar cubs to be born on U.S. soil again, solitary male jaguars need mates. However, female jaguars may never reach the U.S. on their own. In fact, ecologist Peter Warshall’s analysis shows that it could take many decades for a female jaguar to reach the border; male jaguars in the U.S. may potentially never see a mate. Translocation could help establish both females and males in the U.S. when dispersal is cut off by major highways or further development of the border wall.

To bring these big cats back from the brink of extinction in the U.S., Defenders of Wildlife asks FWS to include all suitable U.S. habitat in the jaguar’s recovery area, including habitat north of Interstate 10; protect important movement corridors, both across the border and across Interstate 10; and evaluate all strategies to bring female jaguars to the U.S.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.