"A team of government scientists has voted to capture one of a handful of jaguars known to live in the United States, drawing protests from environmental groups.
"The scientists want to follow the jaguar's movements, along river corridors or through mountain ranges, to help authorities figure out which areas most need protection in the name of the species.
"The decision still needs to be approved by game agencies in Arizona and New Mexico, meaning it could take until the end of the year before one is collard, Arizona Game and Fish officials said.
"At least three environmental groups have protested the idea."I find myself in a bit of a quandary here. I am a supporter of science and don't much like two of the three protesting groups. But jaguars are still vanishingly rare on the border. And...
"In 2002 and 2003, two jaguars died after being captured in Sonora, Mexico for radio-collaring. That's two out of the three research-based jaguar captures ever made in Sonora."
I asked a friend who has been involved in border conservation issues for years (as has her husband, what her take was, and she helped clarify my thoughts a bit.
She says: "It's a complex issue, for sure. With this population, every individual lost is a tragedy.
"But more at issue is the fact that NM Game and Fish is the pushy-dominant gov rep in the jaguar conservation team, and along with USFWS have been pushing for radio/GPS collars - some think to pander to ranchers who just want to prove that the jags are eating cows. Well OF COURSE they're eating young ungulates. That's what they DO. And I have a half-baked theory, too, that the jags up here are moving into territories (or testing territories) that are opened up in areas where ranchers are culling cougars. Every single area where we have frequent jags there are very active lion hunting groups or ranchers. If you open a territory, they will come. . .
"Anyway, my opinion is that the money associated with GPS collars and the tracking program should be better spent buying habitat in Mexico, where ranchers are still shooting jags on sight. The jags up here are outliers. I don't think we'll have permanent populations here, given too many damn people, except maybe out in the Baboquivaris and Tumacacoris, and Gray Ranch. Pretty small areas, in the scope of things. I can't fathom what the gobberment folks want the data for if not for helping backwards ranchers prove the cats 1) eat cows and 2) don't belong here."
I should add that these people are generally SUPPORTERS of ranching-- just not stupidity or gummint bailouts for such.
"Here's a link to the Northern Jaguar Project, the US group fundraising the 2 million needed to buy the biggest ranch surrounding the preserve. Diana Hadley and Peter Warshall are on the board. I like them a lot.
"The site is as wild as it gets in North America - just on our doorstep. [ie just south of the border-- SB] Truly astonishing. The ultimate cauldron of neotropical-tropical mix: jaguars, ocelots, military macaws, black hawks (highest density of breeding pairs possibly in NA) and river otters, cougars, and plants of unbelievable diversity."