April 30, 2012
By Ray Ring, Tony Davis and Talli Nauman, High Country News
#6 The more than 50,000-acre Northern Jaguar Reserve is another joint venture of Mexican and U.S. groups, run by Naturalia and the Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project. They’ve created the reserve by buying four ranches since 2003. It includes deep canyons and a good stretch of Río Aros – habitat for fish and turtles, neotropical river otters, the southernmost-nesting bald eagles in North America, and, of course, jaguars. Remote cameras have documented that up to 12 jaguars live on the reserve – the northernmost breeding population – and it’s a likely source of the jaguars that occasionally wander into Arizona. Because ranchers have been known to kill jaguars to protect their cattle, the Northern Jaguar Project has also installed cameras on nearby ranches, and provided those ranchers with an incentive: Every time a camera photographs a jaguar on a ranch, the group pays the rancher 5,000 pesos. Photos documenting cougars, ocelots and bobcats on the ranches earn smaller payments. Also, with the help of Raul Valdez, an ecology professor at New Mexico State University, in 2003, 11 ranches near the reserve banded together to form an UMA that sells trophy deer hunts; the earnings – more than $20,000 per year – more than compensate for cattle lost to predators. Thus the ranchers have an incentive to maintain deer herds, and the pressure for killing predators has eased, Valdez reports. Defenders of Wildlife’s Tucson office is also involved; as part of a broader jaguar ecological study, Defenders is collaborating with Mexican biologist Carlos López González on a project in which scat-sniffing dogs will course the Sonoran landscape starting as soon as this summer, searching for jaguars and jaguar corridors.