One of just three jaguars known to be living in the U.S. was recently killed by poachers. Experts identified the jaguar’s pelt in a recent photo and say it is Yo’oko, a male jaguar (Panthera onca) that was known to roam the Huachuca Mountains in southern Arizona.
The rosette patterns on a jaguar’s pelt are unique to each individual, a trait that allowed officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify Yo’oko’s pelt in a photo sent to them from the Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project. The endangered carnivore had been photographed near the Mexican border in Arizona several times in 2016 and 2017, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting endangered species.
It is unclear when Yo’oko died or who killed him, but the Arizona Daily Star reported today (June 28) that he may have been killed by a mountain lion hunter. A local rancher told the Arizona Daily Star that he heard from a friend that the jaguar was trapped and killed six months ago somewhere in Sonora, Mexico, near the U.S. border.
Seven jaguars have been photographed in the U.S. in the past 20 years, although in the last three years, experts have spotted only three of the wild cats, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. However, jaguars once lived throughout the Southwest, from Louisiana to Southern California. Hunting and habitat loss over the past 150 years has decimated the population and jaguars have been listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1972.