Wildlife officials say they have evidence of a rare jaguar sighting in the United States, giving conservationists hope that the endangered cat is re-establishing itself here, the AP reports. The US Fish and Wildlife Service released a photo Thursday from a trail camera that was taken in November and recently retrieved. It shows the spotted cat wandering through the Dos Cabezas Mountains in Arizona about 60 miles north of the US-Mexico border. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey says it's the farthest north of the border that a jaguar has been seen in decades. "The significance is that we're getting a clearer understanding of where jaguars occur in the borderline area," Humphrey said. It's been decades since a jaguar was spotted in that mountain range, he noted.
Arizona, New Mexico, and other parts of the southwestern US were home to jaguars before habitat loss and predator control programs aimed at protecting livestock eliminated them over the last 150 years. Conservationists think the latest sighting is evidence that the jaguar is returning to the US after decades away. The first jaguar to be recently seen, dubbed by wildlife conservations as "El Jefe"—Spanish for "the boss"—popped up in the Whetstone Mountains in southeastern Arizona in 2011 when he was about 3 years old. He was seen again in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson around September 2015. A trail camera photo taken on Dec. 1 in a mountain range near Fort Huachuca, the Army installation about 75 miles southeast of Tucson, captured a second jaguar that was seen on camera again in January. Around seven jaguars have been documented in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico since 1996. (Read more jaguar stories.)