The mighty jaguar once roamed throughout the Southwest as far north as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States and are endangered throughout their range, which stretches down to Patagonia in South America. Recent binational conservation efforts have been successful at protecting a small population in the remote mountains of Sonora, Mexico bordering Arizona—inspiring hope for jaguar recovery in the U.S.
Why They’re Important
In the Americas, the jaguar is king of the forest and just about every other type of ecosystem. As a top-level carnivore, the big cat helps prevent overgrazing of vegetation by keeping their prey populations in balance. Jaguars are also important in human culture, frequently playing a central role in stories, songs and prayers of indigenous people.
Farms, ranches, mines, roads, towns, residential subdivisions and border infrastructure are increasingly being built in areas important to jaguar survival, destroying jaguar habitat and blocking migration routes. Additionally, as humans encroach on the jaguar’s home, these opportunistic eaters will occasionally prey on livestock, making them unpopular with ranchers. Jaguars are also frequently killed by poachers, who prize them for their unique rosette-spotted coats.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help Jaguars
Defenders of Wildlife is a key supporter of the Northern Jaguar Reserve, which was created in 2003 to protect the last breeding population of jaguars in their northern range. We are a partner in the Jaguar Guardian Program, which aims to help ranchers coexist with jaguars. Defenders also co-sponsors the Landowner Camera Contest, an innovative program that provides incentives to ranchers to protect jaguars. Defenders also led a legal effort requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for endangered jaguars and we’re continuously monitoring proposed developments in jaguar habitat to ensure that our wild lands remain intact enough to support the jaguar’s return.