Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jaguar Photographed in New Mexico, A New/Old Suspect in the Black Panther Mystery

Earlier this month, well-known mountain lion hunter Warner Glenn was out on a hunt in southern New Mexico. It was not long before Mr. Glenn’s dogs were on the scent of a big cat. Once they had scented their target, the dogs were off like a shot. Glenn gave his dogs space to work and followed their barks from a distance. It was not long before the barking of the dogs ceased and was replaced by long, baying howls indicating that their quarry had been treed. Upon hearing these telltale howls, Glenn accelerated his pace to catch up to his hounds and dispatch the treed mountain lion.

Then a funny thing happened. When Warner Glenn arrived at the scene he did not find a mountain lion. Instead, his dogs had bayed a full-grown jaguar. Glenn did not reach for his rifle, however; he grabbed his camera. After snapping a few pictures, Glenn pulled his dogs off the big cat and allowed it to go on its way. One of the images captured by Mr. Glenn is below. It is simply spectacular.


It turns out that Warner Glenn is no stranger to jaguars. He photographed another jaguar in the Animas Mountains of New Mexico back in February of 2006, also while out on a lion hunt. The photos he captured are thought to be the first pictures ever taken of a live jaguar in the United States (all other photos were of jaguars that had already been killed). Since then, game cameras have captured images of other jaguars, most notably the cat that was dubbed Macho B in Arizona a few years back, but these cats remain extremely rare north of the border and are incredibly elusive. The latest sighting by Mr. Glenn would seem to be a sign that efforts to protect the jaguar, a cat that used to roam a huge part of the American South and Southwest, are having some effect. Hopefully, this latest sighting will spur further efforts to set aside and protect habitat for this magnificent animal.


As is my habit, my mind began to decipher what, if anything, increased jaguar sightings in Arizona and New Mexico might mean for those of us in Texas. I simply see no reason why these big cats would not or could not cross into the Lone Star State if they are able to do so in Arizona and New Mexico. It is likely only a matter of time before a jaguar is photographed on Texas soil. My guess for the most likely area would be the Trans-Pecos Region, maybe the Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend country or the Davis Mountains a bit farther north and west.

I also pondered what this could mean for the black panther conundrum I have been investigating for years. As I am sure most of you know, there is no such animal as a black panther. The term is a sort of catch-all for any large, black, long-tailed cat in the American South and Southwest. The animals most commonly referred to as black panthers are really leopards or jaguars exhibiting melanism. While jaguars are native to Texas and do exhibit melanism in about 10% of individuals (this may be a high estimate), I have never really never considered them as the answer to the black panther conundrum. I always reasoned that if melanistic jaguars were being seen and reported, then the much more commonly colored/marked individuals would be showing up as well. That has just not been the case. I have received very few reports of anomalous spotted cats. Where are the golden jaguars with the normal rosettes that make up at least 90% of the population of the species? Should more encounters like that of Warner Glenn come to light, I might have to reconsider the jaguar as the prime suspect in the black panther mystery. I am not there yet but would like nothing better than to get there.

It would mean the jaguar is back where it belongs.

Sources:

Blakeslee, Sandra. "Gone for Decades, Jaguars Steal Back to the Southwest." The New York Times 10 Oct. 2006, Science/Environment sec. The New York Times Company. Web. 13 June 2015. .


Facebook. California Outdoor TV, 3 June 2015. Web. 13 June 2015. .

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