State authorities confirmed the jaguar photographed Dec. 1 in the Huachuca Mountains is a newcomer to Arizona.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department analyzed photos taken by trail cameras and confirmed the jaguar had not been seen previously in the state, the department said in a news release Wednesday.
“Five scientists from the department independently examined the photos from the new sighting with those from previous jaguars in Arizona to compare spot patterns and concluded that this animal has not been sighted in previously in the state,” Jim deVos, assistant director for Wildlife Management at AZGFD, said in the news release.
The recently-seen jaguar is a solitary male whose closest breeding population is about 130 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, deVos said. He cautioned that without female jaguars or more regular sightings of jaguars, the photographs from early December are not indicators that the the jaguar population is returning to Arizona.
The most recent sighting of a jaguar in southern Arizona prior to the one in the Huachuca Mountains was in the Santa Rita Mountains, the department said. That jaguar was photographed hundreds of times, but it hasn't been documented in the state since September 2015.