Study Confirms 2 Jaguars killed in AZ in 1960’s were Imported from Belize

A new study has been published in the Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science, Babb et al. (2022) “Updates of Historic and Contemporary Records of Jaguars (Panthera onca) from Arizona.” The authors confirm the most highly contested findings of the literature review that SACPA conducted and first submitted, with full citations, in comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012. We updated our literature review in 2017.

In May 2015, wildlife biologist Dennis Parker and SACPA volunteer Cindy Coping personally interviewed Curtis Prock. Mr. Prock had been a world-famous former jaguar hunting guide and was, at the time of our interview, the world’s most authoritative expert on mid-century jaguar occurrences in Arizona and New Mexico.  Mr. Prock was  96 years old and sadly passed away a few months following the interview. We are grateful to Mr. Prock’s daughter Barbara Smith for facilitating the interview.

In September 1963, Terry Penrod and his friend were varmint-calling at about 9,500 feet elevation on a mountain overlooking Big Lake in Arizona. Out of the brush, to their astonishment, came a 105-pound female jaguar. Mr. Penrod shot and killed it. This was a legitimate, non-guided hunt, nine years before the jaguar was listed as a foreign endangered species, and a full decade before President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law. In January 1964, federal Predator and Rodent Control agent Russell Culbreth trapped and killed a small male jaguar nearby on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, after following its tracks in the snow. Both of these jaguars were killed within a few miles of the trailheads where Mr. Prock had led dozens of clients on successful bear and lion hunts in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

In the May 2015 interview our expert consultant, wildlife biologist/attorney Dennis Parker asked Mr. Prock for his expert opinion on the origins of those two jaguars. Mr. Prock replied that both jaguars, “had plenty of help getting to where they’d gotten to.

In its subsequent designation of critical habitat for the jaguar, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged this information and accordingly, omitted the two jaguars from recognized historical Arizona records.  That decision did not stop radical left wing green activist groups from continuing to promote the false narrative that the female jaguar Terry Penrod shot in 1963 was the last member of a breeding and historically thriving population of jaguars that formerly inhabited the entire state of Arizona.

This false narrative is repeated in hundreds if not thousands of articles easily found on the internet. The same dubious scientists who wrote the dubious “scientific” papers SACPA soundly debunked are now proposing to “reintroduce  breeding jaguar populations”  into the same Mogollon Rim area where endangered Mexican wolves are presently being introduced and established in the wild. Of course, these same groups and their dubious scientists also use fake jaguar historical narratives as an excuse to demand the nation’s southern border remain wide open. Terry Penrod’s 1963 female jaguar is the lynchpin of the propaganda.

Babb  et al.(2022) delivers a huge blow to the narrative by stating,

We also dismissed two previously reported records in Brown and Lopez (2001). Although the female killed by T. Penrod in 1963 and the male trapped by R. Culbreath in 1964 were not taken on guided hunts, we have reliable information (S. Smith, pers comm.) that these jaguars had been translocated from what is now Belize and released on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation some time prior to being taken.”

Despite this good news, the new study’s authors (some of whose earlier works we had debunked) continue to report unreliable hearsay and otherwise unverifiable and debunked records as if they are verified scientific fact. They still cite the same SACPA-debunked citations that bury the utter absence of scientific due diligence behind long strings of citations to previous writers’ citations to unreliable, ancient hearsay and nonexistent original sources.

Babb et al. (2022) also re-charted the jaguar occurrences “by decade,” this time actually extending the x-axis to precede the giant 1902 spike in jaguar occurrence. The new chart no longer looks like a ski jump loss of “historical” and seemingly abundant (but actually rare) jaguars.  The misleading first “decade” on the chart , however, is 42 years long! It would have been 50 years long if they could have found any records at all preceding 1858. That sleight-of-hand chart misleads the careless or hasty reader to falsely infer that more jaguars occurred in Arizona per decade before 1900 than the numbers seen today.

The fact is that the period from 1900-1905 was inconsistent with all the other recorded data. Something unusual caused the sudden appearance of jaguars all over Arizona. We have strong evidence of a variety of potential temporal causes but this research is not ready for publication.

The highly consistent data outside that short time frame reveals that transient, lone male jaguars occasionally wander north of Mexico at a rate of two or three per decade.

If jaguar populations thrived in Arizona and many were documented on the Arizona/New Mexico border, then something needs to be explained: Why no naturally-occurring female jaguar has been documented in New Mexico–ever.  Moreover, there is zero historical, archaeological, or geological evidence of any breeding, post-Pleistocene jaguar population in Arizona or New Mexico.