Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Correcting the Myth of the Amercian Jaguar

No evidence of Jaguar Breeding Populations in New Mexico or Arizona, after the Pleistocene Era

 

The myth that jaguars populated the USA prior to 1900 was started with a paper written by a political activistt, and unfortunately accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service without due scientific diligence.

I am writing to inform you that your recent article, "Amazon jaguar shot dead after Olympic torch ceremony" contains statements of "fact" that are totally inaccurate.

The myth that jaguars populated the USA prior to 1900 was started with a paper written by a political activist, and unfortunately accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service without due scientific diligence.

There is no documented evidence of any naturally occurring female jaguar in New Mexico since the Pleistocene.

The article is here: http://www.smobserved.com/story/2016/06/22/news/amazon-jaguar-shot-dead-after-olympic-torch-ceremony/1507.html

Errors are confronted below:

Error 1. "Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southeast of Tucson) and the bootheel of New Mexico, the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century."

Correction: No "breeding population of jaguars" exists in Arizona or New Mexico-or ever did. (Your article contains perhaps the tallest tale ever printed on this subject.) There is no verifiable evidence there ever was a post-Pleistocene, naturally occurring population of jaguars in either state. (There are only speculative claims that there were, but three stories about female jaguars killed with cubs in Arizona are entirely unverifiable and therefore nothing more than unscientific urban legends. This is confirmed in the comments the Arizona Game and Fish Department submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service during the public comment period on the critical habitat designation. (See p. 4 here-- http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/es/documents/130808.FWS.Jag.Critical.Habitat.Ltr.pdf ) Moreover, there is no documented evidence of any naturally occurring female jaguar in New Mexico since the Pleistocene--so it would be impossible for a breeding population of jaguars to have occurred in New Mexico in recorded history.

The myth that jaguars populated the USA prior to 1900 was started with a paper written by a political activist, and unfortunately accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service without due scientific diligence. The writer plotted a histogram of the numbers of jaguars killed in Arizona and New Mexico since 1900. He did not present the actual data he plotted.) What the writer did not document is the fact that jaguars were observed no more frequently in Arizona or New Mexico prior to the exact year 1900 than they are seen today. Rather than showing an abrupt spike from zero to about 20 in jaguar numbers exactly in the year In 1900, the activist's histogram deceptively excludes records prior to 1900--which would show a spike from zero to 20+ records exactly in 1900. Exactly beginning in 1900, suddenly and dramatically, jaguars appeared in Arizona in significant numbers. Their numbers tapered off after trucking began to replace railroads for shipping cattle. Scientists prior to 1900 documented that scientists believed at that time that jaguars were either rare or absent from Arizona. The influx of jaguars occurred very suddenly, and shortly following establishment of a rail system with cattle pens and watering facilities at every depot from Phoenix all the way south to Guadalajara.

• Elliot Coues (1867) wrote in an article, "The Quadrupeds of Arizona,"

"Two other species of true long-tailed cats may possibly exist, particularly in the south- eastern portions. These are the Ocelot (F. pardalis Linn.), and the Jaguar (F. onzaliinn.). Within the limits of the United States, however, they have as yet only been found in the valley of the Rio Grande of Texas."

• John Duncan Quackenbos et al. (1887 Smithsonian team of biologists)wrote,

"It is true that the Jaguar, the largest of American Cats, has been taken along our southern border, but it can be regarded only as a very rare straggler from the tropics."

• An article in the July 18, 1901 issue of the Arizona Silver Belt, p.2 states,

"The jaguar is a beautifully spotted black and yellow creature and is exceedingly rare in Arizona, though quite plentiful in some portions of Mexico."

• C.M. Barber (1902) in recording his findings on the presence of jaguars in New Mexico stated:

"The present paper is intended to record certain species of mammals not previously known to occur in New Mexico."

• Vernon Bailey (1931) wrote,

"Distribution and habitat. - A few large spotted cats (pl. 16, A) have been found over southern New Mexico, where they seem to be native, although generally supposed to be wanderers from over the Mexican border."

Sources:

E. Coues, "The Quadripeds of Arizona" P. 285-286, The American Naturalist, Volume 1. University of Chicago Press, 1867

Quackenbos, J.D., Newberry, J.S., Hitchcock, C.H., Stevens, W. Le Conte, Gannett, H., Dall, W., Merriam, C.H., Britton, N.L., Kunz, G.F., Stoney, Lt. G.M .; Physical Geography Prepared on a New and Original Plan, Appleton's American Standard Geographies Based on the Principles of the Science of Education. D. Appleton and Co., NY. 1887

Barber, C.M. 1902. Notes on little-known New Mexican mammals and species apparently not recorded from the territory. Biological Society of Washington Proceedings. 15:191-193.

Bailey V, 1931. Mammals of New Mexico. North American Fauna 53:283-285.

Error 2.

" The USFWS was ultimately ordered by the court to develop a jaguar recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the cats."

This error on your part is understandable, because unfortunately this utter falsehood has been published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and is repeated often by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, even though they know it is utterly false. The court actually stated the following:

there is no documented evidence of any naturally occurring female jaguar in New Mexico since the Pleistocene--so it would be impossible for a breeding population of jaguars to have occurred in New Mexico in recorded history. A young jaguar in a zoo in Belize.

"IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs' Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. Nos. 44& 45) are GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART. The FWS determinations to not designate critical habitat or prepare a recovery plan are set aside, and this case is remanded to the FWS so that it may, consistent with this opinion, consider whether to designate critical habitat and prepare a recovery plan for the jaguar. The FWS shall make a determination as to critical habitat and recovery planning by January 8, 2010.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Federal Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 53) is DENIED.

15 The Court expresses no opinion or conclusion in this matter regarding the construction of vehicle or pedestrian impediments along the international border."

Source: http://elr.info/litigation/39/20073/center-biological-diversity-v-kempthorne

Best regards,

Cindy Coping

 
 

Reader Comments
(2)

SAV1234 writes:

I am appalled this was published without fact checking, as the author argues it was done before. 1 Book Borderland jaguars (2001) is best source of reliable information about jaguars in US. 2 Last female recorded in Arizona in 1963 (page 59). 3 No recorded females DOES NOT mean there are no females Male jaguars are not spontaneously generated. 4 Author chooses to ignore connectivity between US and Mexico, and assumes jaguars just drop from sky. 5 Author used old sources (1867 1887 1902 & 1931)

ivc writes:

You are trying to state something without prove, just based on others statements and no evidence. Perhaps you should read Dave Brown's book. He made a very good research with real interviews from people who hunted and there were female jaguars once in Arizona.

 
 
 

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