The jaguar (Panthera onca) is an endangered species that occasionally visits the southwestern United States from Mexico. The number of jaguar sightings per decade has declined over the last 100 years in Arizona, USA, raising conservation concerns for the species at a local and national level. In 1997, state, federal, and local governments with land-management responsibilities agreed to characterize and identify potential jaguar habitat in Arizona and New Mexico. Specifically, the objectives of our analysis were 2-fold: (1) characterize potential jaguar habitat in Arizona from historic sighting records and (2) create a statewide habitat suitability map. We used a Geographic Information System (GIS) to characterize potential jaguar habitat by overlaying historic jaguar sightings (25) on landscape and habitat features believed important (e.g., vegetation biomes and series, elevation, terrain ruggedness, proximity to perennial or intermittent water sources, human density). The amount of Arizona (%) identified as potential jaguar habitat ranged from 21% to 30% depending on the input variables. Most jaguar sightings were in scrub grasslands between 1,220 and 1,829-m elevation in southeastern Arizona, in intermediately to extremely rugged terrain, and within 10 km of a water source. Conservation efforts should focus on protecting the most suitable jaguar habitat in southeastern Arizona (i.e., Santa Cruz, Pima, Cochise, Pinal, Graham counties), travel corridors within and outside Arizona, and jaguar habitat in the Sierra Madres of Sonora, Mexico.
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A spatial model of potential jaguar habitat in Arizona