Jaguar Seen in Hidalgo County, New Mexico

March 10, 2006

By Tania Soussan, Albuquerque Journal

What’s spotted all over but rarely spotted in New Mexico?

For the first time in a decade, a jaguar has been sighted in the state.

The elusive big cats – known for their golden yellow coats with dark rosette markings – once roamed widely in Arizona and New Mexico.

Today, they are endangered and mostly restricted to México. Mostly.

“We have a report of a jaguar sighting in Hidalgo County,” New Mexico Game and Fish spokesman Marty Frentzel said this week. “We’re still trying to get all the facts.”

The jaguar was sighted by a mountain lion hunter and “…our understanding is he was using hounds,” Frentzel added.

Beyond that, the state isn’t saying much.

But word of the sighting is spreading. Jon Schwedler, a New Mexican and manager of the Northern Jaguar Project, heard the news recently.

“It’s exciting that this jaguar is here,” he said.

Jaguars are the largest cats native to North America. They are powerful, solitary predators and can travel hundreds of miles. They are often thought of as jungle animals but have also been found in desert grasslands and conifer forests.

“We don’t know what to make of it,” Frentzel said. “Occasionally, there is use of New Mexico by jaguar. Other than that, it may not mean much.”