If you thought there were no jaguars roaming the US, you'd be almost right. Their numbers are believed to have now dwindled to as few as two. The Arizona Daily Star was last week given a photo of a jaguar pelt, and the six Arizona Game and Fish Department officials who reviewed it came to a grim conclusion: There is "a very high correlation" in spot patterns, which are unique to each jaguar, when comparing the image of the pelt with a photo of a male jaguar that roamed the Huachuca Mountains south of Tucson. Last caught on camera in March 2017, the creature had been named Yo'oko.
While the Daily Star notes seven male jaguars have been photographed in the US since 1996, Live Science reports only three have been sighted in the last three years, per the Center for Biological Diversity. The jaguar is an endangered species both here and in Mexico, and killing one is illegal under both countries' laws. So who did the killing? A Mexican rancher tells the Daily Star that he heard from a friend the animal was killed roughly six months ago just south of the US border after being trapped by someone hunting mountain lions. How the animal was killed after it was trapped is unknown. "I think it is very likely that the jaguar was trapped incidental to an effort to kill a puma that had been taking calves," speculates a former US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. (Read more jaguar stories.)