[IN-DEPTH] A border wall could drive the jaguar extinct in America

By Brandon Loomis | The Republic | azcentral.com

AHUARIPA, Mexico — Somewhere in the remote crags of the Sierra Madre Occidental of eastern Sonora, a female jaguar stalks a Mexican deer or a band of tree-climbing coatis. She could be the one.

Her stomach and nose could lead her north a few dozen frontier miles to join one of the solitary males that have skulked the southern Arizona mountains in recent years.

Biologists and wildlife advocates think jaguars could pair off north of the border someday, if Americans leave the trail open and if a female follows it.

At least seven male jaguars have ventured into U.S. territory since 1996 — five in southern Arizona and two in southwestern New Mexico, places where their kind effectively had been extinct for decades.

Automated trail cameras have detected two new Arizona jaguars since last fall, raising hopes among conservationists for the big cat’s return.

The jaguar’s fate could hinge on the fate of President Donald Trump’s border-wall proposal. Build an impenetrable wall and no female or male cat will make it into the United States. The species will go extinct in this country.

But the jaguar’s story is bigger than a wall. In Mexico, the cat faces many of the same threats its ancestors did in the United States a century ago. Ranchers see the jaguar as a livestock-killing predator. Roads and development are fragmenting the habitat. The food chain weakens as people alter the landscape.

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