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Conservation group confirms 2 jaguar sightings in southern Arizona mountains

A conservation group with cameras set up along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands say they’ve confirmed new jaguar sightings there — marking the latest in a handful of sightings over the last few years.

Jaguars have an ancestral homeland that includes northern Sonora and southern Arizona — and many still cross back and forth today. But overhunting, habitat loss and border infrastructure have dwindled the number of jaguars in both countries. 

Emily Burns with the Sky Island Alliance says the conservation group captured two images of a jaguar last year — one in May and one in November. They identified the images after collecting the cameras in January.

"And we were really excited to see the cat was using the Whetstone Mountains. These mountains are north of the Huachucas and north of one of the unwalled sections of border," she said.

The last time jaguars were photographed in the Whetstone range was in 2011. Burns says the images from last year likely show a young, adult male jaguar that probably crossed into Arizona from Sonora. That’s good news, she says, because it means some of the rugged, mountainous areas left unwalled are still viable wildlife corridors.

Last year, jaguars were also spotted on trail cameras set up by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Huachuca Mountains. The agency says the images could show a jaguar previously only seen south of the border, or a new one that hasn’t been previously photographed. 

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.