For the first time in over two years, a jaguar has been spotted in Arizona. Hunting guide Donnie Fenn, his 10-year old-daughter, and an unidentified friend were running Fenn’s dogs after mountain lion the Saturday before Thanksgiving in a remote canyon in Cochise County when the lead dog caught a scent.
Fenn detailed the action during a press conference held at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Tucson office last Tuesday. “In a matter of a couple of minutes, the dogs blew out of the canyon and were going fast.
I jumped back on my mule and headed up the canyon, and by then the dogs were about three-quarters of a mile from us.” When Fenn closed the gap to 200 yards he immediately knew what his dogs had treed. “I pulled my camera out, zoomed in, and I could tell right away it was a jaguar. It was big and spotted.”
Fenn left his daughter and friend to shoot video while he called Game and Fish to find out what to do. Fenn returned just as the jaguar leapt from the tree. The dogs and Fenn gave chase. “It was roaring the whole time we were chasing it. I’ve never experienced something like this. The roaring and growling. It was quite unreal.”
The jaguar did more than growl however. It attacked several dogs. “All my dogs took a pretty good beating. They had puncture wounds.” Although Fenn managed to pull most of his dogs from the trail, a few continued after the large cat. Those dogs bayed the jaguar in a tree roughly two miles from the first tree. Fenn took 80 to 85 pictures of the jaguar at a distance of 15 feet before leaving the area.
Since this is the first time that a jaguar has been sighted in Arizona since the death of a radio collared jaguar known as “Macho B” in 2009, Fenn’s encounter has understandably caused much excitement. It has also caused some controversy. When Game and Fish officials asked Fenn for copies of his photos Fenn agreed with conditions. He wanted his photos to be used for scientific purposes only. Game and Fish officials declined. Officials did get the photos however when they were unveiled to the media. (OL will not publish Fenn’s photos without first getting permission).
Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart explained, “We have reasonable images. It wasn’t so important for us that we get the photos as it was that the photos got out. Now, everybody’s got them.” Another controversy has to do with the press conference hosted by Game and Fish. Reporters were instructed “that they were not to ask Fenn his views on the Endangered Species Act or whether he believes jaguars should be captured for research purposes.”
Jaguars once inhabited much of the American south and southwest. Like many large predators they fell victim to early eradication programs and loss of habitat. Jaguars are the third largest cat in the world behind tigers and lions respectively. Male jaguars are capable of exceeding 200 pounds in weight and have been known to take down prey as large as longhorn cattle.
To book a hunt with Donnie Fenn visit his website.