Poacher Kills One of Last-Known US Jaguars

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

If you love and appreciate wildlife, like most good and ethical hunters do, this will break your heart. 

According to 12 News, one of the last wild jaguars known to be living in the United States was shot and killed by a poacher after it crossed into Mexico. A photo that was released Thursday shows the jaguar's pelt, officials with the Center for Biological Diversity said.

A young male jaguar named Yo’oko (the Yaqui word for jaguar) roamed southern Arizona around the Huachuca Mountains in 2016 and 2017. He was named by students at Hiaki High School in Tucson.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the photo shows a jaguar pelt with markings matching Yo'oko, meaning he had been killed and skinned.

"The pattern of rosettes on a jaguar is unique, enabling identification of specific individuals," the center said in a release.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department said five biologists examined the trail photo and the photo of the pelt side-by-side to confirm a match.

Yo’oko, one of three wild jaguars spotted in the U.S. in the past three years, showed up regularly on trail cameras in late 2016 and 2017. Seven have been confirmed by photographs in Arizona in the past 20 years, according to the center.

Officials with Arizona Game and Fish say the jaguar was killed on the Mexican side of the border, so there's nothing U.S. officials can do.

Jan Schipper, director of field conservation research at the Phoenix Zoo, says jaguars encounter threats on both sides of the border.

"They're coming into the U.S., and it's almost always males, and then they're leaving to go back. So there's lots of threats along the way on both sides. So it's really unfortunate when we hear about a jaguar being killed by people intentionally," he said.

Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the rare cat's death is a "piercing" tragedy.

“The presence of jaguars in our mountains tells us that they are still whole and still wild,” Serraglio said. “The thought of having to explain to those kids at Hiaki High School that somebody killed their favorite jaguar really just breaks my heart.”

Schipper says although the latest news is discouraging, he hopes it leads to more awareness.

“We need the entire public, at least a majority of the public to be engaged in this. We can’t just continue to wait for a new generation to come around, because there might not be jaguar left by then," he said.

A prominent Mexican environmentalist says he's not optimistic the poacher will be caught because authorities just don't have enough resources.

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