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Jaguar captured, collared and released in Arizona

February 20, 2009 | 12:00 pm

The jaguar that was released after having a tracking collar fitted to its neck.

A jaguar was captured southwest of Tucson this week during an Arizona Game and Fish Department research study. The study was actually aimed at monitoring black bear and mountain lion habitats.

The male cat has been fitted with a satellite tracking collar and released. The collar will provide biologists with location updates every few hours and it is hopeful that this data will provide information on a little-studied population segment of this species. This is the first time in the U.S. that a jaguar has been able to be followed in this manner.

"While we didn't set out to collar a jaguar as part of the research project, we took advantage of the important opportunity," Terry Johnson, Arizona Game and Fish dept. endangered species coordinator, said in a press release issued by the department.

The jaguar is protected under the Endangered Species Act.  According to Steve Spangler, Arizona field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a permit was issued under this act to radio-collar a jaguar if the opportunity presented itself.

"Gathering habitat-use information and learning whether and how the cat is moving in and out of the United States may be essential to jaguar conservation on the northern edge of their range," Spangler said.

Thought to be extinct in the U.S., two independent sightings of the big cats about a decade ago confirmed that they still utilize portions of Arizona and New Mexico as part of their range. Images of them have also been taken in these areas recently using remote cameras.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: The jaguar that was released after having a tracking collar fitted to its neck. Credit: Arizona Game and Fish Department