Jaguar Nicknamed “El Jefe” Spotted In Mexico After Disappearing From Arizona; Suggests Jaguars Finding Ways To Cross Border Despite Hazards

A well-known male jaguar first recorded in Arizona has been spotted in Mexico. “El Jefe” as the cat is known, had disappeared from Arizona in 2015 and was feared dead.

He is estimated to be about 12 years old. which is toward the end of the life span of a wild jaguar. Jaguars in zoos can live to about 2O years. El Jefe, “The Boss” in Spanish, was nicknamed by Tucson, Arizona school children. At one time he was probably the only Jaguar resident in Arizona.

a jaguar with a blurred background
Not only are jaguars bigger than leopards, they have “spots within their spots” also known as rosettes. This can be seen on the back and flanks of this cat tPhoto by Nick Núñez on

Jaguars have unique patterns of rosettes, often called spots. Since no two individuals are alike photos from trail cameras can provide definitive identification. El Jefe was caught on cameras set up by PROFAUNA a Mexican conservation organization. Their motto is “We Live To Conserve.” The Northern Jaguar Project (NJP), Arizona’s Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and Wildlands Network all agreed that the cat seen in Sonora is “El Jefe.” A press release said there is “no doubt” it is the same cat. The NJP specifically targets jaguars in the northern Mexico and southern Arizona region for conservation.

Jaguar (Panthera Onca) illustrated by Charles Dessalines D' Orbigny (1806-1876). Digitally enhanced from our own 1892 edition of Dictionnaire Universel D'histoire Naturelle.

Jaguars and cougars, or mountain lions, are the two largest cats in the America’s. Jaguars tend to be a bit larger. The biggest jaguars weigh in around 300 pounds. The biggest knowns cougars have been weighed at 220 pounds. Cougars can be found from Canada all the way south to Argentina. They have the longest north south range of any cat. Jaguars are found mostly in the Amazon but scattered population exist, There are populations as far north as northern Mexico and south of the Amazon.

Jaguars are sometimes confused with leopards. In addition to the difference in size and pattern of coat there are some other key differences. Jaguars are stockier and more muscular and have broader heads and shorter tails. Although both leopards and jaguars can swim, leopards tend to avoid water. Jaguar spend lots of time in the water. Jaguars are quite bold and will attack animals larger than themselves. Leopards avoid conflict with bigger animals. Jaguars can climb, but not as well as leopards whose longer tails give them an advantage in trees. A leopard can weigh up to 165 pounds, just about half the weight of a jaguar.

There are efforts in Central and South America to re-connect jaguar habitat and reintroduce them to areas from whence they have been exterminated. Efforts to “re-wild” jaguars are also under way.

cheetah lying on tree branch during day time
A reclining leopard. Note the difference in spot pattern . Photo by Pixabay on

Recently we have reported on efforts to re-introduce jaguars into Arizona from Sonora, Mexico where breeding populations exist. The fact that El Jefe was able to return to Mexico from Arizona suggests that animals can find ways across the border. The construction of highways and efforts to secure the border are hindrances to animal movement.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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