Monday, December 19, 2016

Steller: Jaguars belong in Southern Arizona, whatever the number

...In the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s official statement on the confirmation of a new roaring cat, Jim deVos, the assistant director for wildlife management, put the department’s position this way: “Jaguars are a unique component of this state’s wildlife diversity and it is exciting to document a new visitor. However, in the absence of female jaguars and with the irregularity with which we document any jaguar presence in Arizona, this sighting in early December is important, but not an indicator of an establishing population in the state.” This and other comments deVos and another Game and Fish official made Thursday are both correct in their particulars and diversionary in their spirit. To say the new jaguar is a “visitor” suggests they aren’t really supposed to be here. But historical records show that’s clearly wrong. Before white settlement, jaguars lived at least as far north as the Grand Canyon and were permanent, reproducing residents of Arizona. In fact, their range stretched from California to Louisiana. Over the last 20 years, at least five males have crossed into Southern Arizona, at times apparently overlapping in their time here. A hunter shot the last female known to have lived in the state in 1963, near Big Lake in the White Mountains. My colleague Tony Davis interviewed that hunter, Terry Penrod, about four years ago at his Lakeside home. In that case, the Game and Fish Department recently concluded the female was planted by a hunting guide, even though the accused guide denied it. In other words, this is a pattern. Political pressures mean Game and Fish must both celebrate the existence of the jaguar in Arizona and deny that it really belongs...more

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