After eluding surveillance efforts for as long as it’s roamed the country’s forests, the United States’ only known wild jaguar has finally been caught on camera.
Never-before-seen footage of the big cat known as “El Jefe,” which is Spanish for “the boss,” was released showing the majestic creature on the prowl just outside Tuscon, Arizona, the Center for Biological Diversity announced Wednesday.
The rare clip shows the jaguar slinking around at night, exploring the wilderness in the Santa Rita Mountains.
It took three years of tracking the feline to gather the footage, officials said.
“Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the U.S. is especially challenging,” Chris Bugbee, a biologist with Conservation CATalyst, said in a news release.
“We use our specially trained scat detection dog and spent three years tracking in rugged mountains, collecting data and refining camera sites; these videos represent the peak of our efforts,” Bugbee continued.
Biologists said the video comes at a critical point in efforts toward the cat's conservation. Experts worry about a possible impending land conflict as a Canadian mining company pushes for development near El Jefe’s stomping grounds.
“Clearly, the Santa Rita Mountains are a vital part of this cat’s home range,” Bugbee said. “The Santa Rita Mountains are critically important to jaguar recovery in this country, and they must be protected.”