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Rare Jaguar Seen In Arizona Is Believed To Have Died

jaguar seen in wildlife camera
(Image Courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department)
An extremely rare jaguar was spotted in this wildlife camera in 2016. It was last spotted in Arizona in 2017 and now is belived to have died.

A rare jaguar spotted in Southern Arizona is believed to have died. Only seven of these animals have been seen in the U.S. in the past 25 years.

The jaguar was last seen alive in 2017 on a trail camera in the Huachuca Mountains. Now, a nonprofit dedicated to the species has obtained a photo of a jaguar pelt – and Arizona Game and Fish Department officials say the markings are identical.

Jaguars are protected under the Endangered Species Act, said spokesman Mark Hart.

“There’s virtually nothing you can do, short of threat to life and limb, as it relates to a jaguar,” he said. “You can’t follow it, harass it, kill it, injure it in any way, or you’ve violated that law.”

Jaguars were common in Southern Arizona until the early 20th century, Hart said. That’s when settlers all but eradicated them in the state. This jaguar likely came into Arizona from Mexico. The species can be found in Central and Southern America, as well.

“The biologic diversity of Southeastern Arizona is something we all are proud of at Arizona Game and Fish, and in this region,” Hart said, “and so for that individual to be taken out of the mix is tragic.”

When senior field correspondent Stina Sieg was 22, she moved to the desert. She hasn’t been the same since. At the time, the Northern California native had just graduated from college and was hankering for wide-open spaces. So she took a leap and wrote to nearly every newspaper in New Mexico until one offered her a job. That’s how she became the photographer for a daily paper in the small town of Silver City. And that’s when she realized how much she loved storytelling. In the years since, the beauty of having people open up and share their stories — and trust her to tell them — has never gotten old to Sieg. Before coming to KJZZ, Sieg was also a writer and photographer at newspapers in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Moab, Utah; and the Smoky Mountains town of Waynesville, North Carolina. She always had her hand in public radio, too, including hosting Morning Edition on a fill-in basis at WNCW in North Carolina. It’s still the best music station she’s found. When she’s not reporting, chances are Sieg is running, baking, knitting or driving to some far-flung town deep in the desert — just to see what it looks like.