Just Wild About the Tucson Jaguar

December 29th, 2016 · No Comments

Tucson Jaguar by Jane St. Clair

El Jefe came up out of Mexico to the Santa Rita Mountains to live just north of the city of Tucson, Arizona. He walked across the border — El Jefe’s not one for fences.

The Tucson Jaguar made the 130-mile journey by himself, but then, he is a jaguar and jaguars like to be alone. This animal is now the only known living wild jaguar in the United States.

El Jefe (“The Boss” in English) is afraid of nothing for he is on the top of the food chain and prey to no one. There is no animal his jaws can’t take down. He stalks and ambushes his prey with a bite-force that is the most powerful in the New World. The Tucson Jaguar can bite through the armor of an armadillo, and we now know that he kills black bear.

We also know that El Jefe has been living in Tucson for at least five years because hunters, hikers, and ranchers have taken hundred of pictures of him. Some have seen his enormous paw print. It looks like that of a mountain lion with four toes without claws, but his heel pad is much bigger. Tucson jaguard-paw-print-from-az-fish-wildlife

When biologists from the University of Arizona and other agencies tried to capture El Jefe on film with temperature-sensitive cameras, he eluded them. Finally in February 2016, the Center for Biological Diversity took the very first video of this magnificent cat. He is walking near water, which is typical of jaguars who like to live near rivers and in the rain forests of South America.

El Jefe lives a solitary life. He moves around in his beautiful muscular stealth way in the hours of early dawn and dusk. His spots are called rosettes of all things, and he is the only big cat that can roar. He roars to warn his competition to stay away from his territory.

Tucson Jaguar El Jefe

Once American jaguars roamed from Colorado to Texas, as far north as the Grand Canyon and all the way west to Southern California. Now all we have left is El Jefe, the Tucson Jaguar.

I watch his beautiful glowing eyes and his muscular tawny body, and something about him is bright and burning. The Aztecs, who had elite Jaguar Knights, believed something similar about the jaguar too. They believed the jaguar gave fire to humankind, and that seems right to me. El Jefe has a light about him, he has a splendor wonder … or in William Blake’s words, a fearful symmetry.

Imacon Color Scanner
Drawing by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

For the latest updates on efforts to conserve jaguar habitats in Arizona, see jaguar conservation on the Arizona Fish and Game Department’s website.


Tags: Arizona · Jane St. Clair · nature essay · Tucson · Uncategorized