A male ocelot -- the fifth documented in Arizona in recent years -- was photographed last week and again in early April in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.
While authorities won't get too specific on where the ocelot has been photographed, the small, endangered cat was roaming in what's known as the Rosemont Mine "action area." That's a 145,000-acre area surrounding the mine site where the Forest Service has been studying the mine's impacts.
The small cat hasn't been seen on the mine site in the Santa Ritas, said Jean Calhoun, an assisstant field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Southern Arizona.
The discovery of this ocelot almost certainly means yet another round of delays for the mine, which has been going through federal permitting since 2007. Augusta Resource Corp., parent company for mine proponent Rosemont Copper, has said it expects to get all permits needed to start construction by the end of June.
However, Jim Upchurch, the Coronado National Forest Supervisor, said he doesn't think that's likely now, given endangered species issues surrounding the project. While other issues also could delay the service's final decision on the project, he said the endangered species issues override everything else. They're also not limited to the ocelot.
Read more in tomorrow's Arizona Daily Star.