[Federal Register: July 12, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 133)]
[Page 39335-39337]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination That 
Designation of Critical Habitat Is Not Prudent for the Jaguar

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under the 
Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), have determined that 
it is not prudent to designate critical habitat for the jaguar 
(Panthera onca). This determination is based on a thorough review of 
the best available data, which indicate that there are no areas in the 
United States that meet the definition of critical habitat as defined 
in the Act. As such, designation of critical habitat would not be 
beneficial to the species and therefore is not prudent.

DATES: This finding is effective July 12, 2006.

ADDRESSES: The supporting materials used as the basis for this finding 
are available for inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the Arizona Ecological Services Office of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, 2321 West Royal Palm Road, Suite 103, Phoenix, 
Arizona 85021-4951.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, Arizona Ecological 
Services Office (see ADDRESSES section) (telephone (602) 242-0210; 
facsimile (602) 242-2513).



    Since the July 22, 1997, publication of the final listing rule that 
extended endangered status for the jaguar into the United States (62 FR 
39147), new information has been documented for the jaguar in the 
United States and Mexico. Below we present a summary of relevant 
information used in making our determination that designating critical 
habitat in the United States for the jaguar is not prudent. For more 
information regarding all aspects of the jaguar, refer to the July 22, 
1997, listing rule (62 FR 39147), Jaguar Conservation Team documents 
and notes (http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/es/jaguar_management.shtml), and 

the literature they cite.
    The jaguar, a large member of the cat family (Felidae), is an 
endangered species that currently occurs from southern Arizona and New 
Mexico to southern South America. Jaguars in the United States are part 
of a population, or populations, that occur largely in Mexico. As the 
July 22, 1997, listing rule (62 FR 39147) discusses, jaguars in the 
United States historically occurred in California, Arizona, New Mexico, 
Texas, and possibly Louisiana. The last jaguar sightings in California, 
Texas, and Louisiana were documented in the late 1800s or early 1900s. 
While jaguars have been documented as far north as the Grand Canyon, 
sightings in the late 20th century to the present have occurred mainly 
along the international boundary of the United States and Mexico. 
Further, only three records of a female with kittens have been 
documented in the United States, the last in 1910 (Lange 1960; Nowak 
1975; Brown 1989), and no females have been confirmed in the United 
States since 1963 (Brown and Lopez-Gonzalez 2000). Based on documented 
sightings in the late 20th century, occurrences in the United States at 
the time of the July 22, 1997, listing (62 FR 39147) were limited to 
southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Recently (1996 
through 2006), possibly five transient male jaguars have been 
documented in the United States. Of those five, in 1996, two male 

jaguars were photographed in the United States: one on March 7, 1996, 
in the Peloncillo Mountains, located along the Arizona--New Mexico 
border (Glenn 1996; Brown and Lopez Gonzalez 2001), and another on 
August 31, 1996, in the Baboquivari Mountains in southern Arizona 
(Childs 1998; Brown and Lopez Gonzalez 2001). In February 2006, a 
jaguar was observed and photographed in Hidalgo County, New Mexico. 
Using remote cameras, jaguars were photographed in the United States 
near the Arizona--Mexico border beginning in 2001, and as recently as 
April 2006. Sightings over the past decade indicate that some male 
jaguars may occasionally range into the United States. However, regular 

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intermittent use of the borderlands area by wide-ranging males, and no 
indication of the presence of females or cubs, indicates that physical 
and biological features in the United States may allow individual 
transients to survive, at least temporarily, but do not support a 
breeding population. As such, we do not believe that these features in 
the United States are essential to the conservation of the species.
    Swank and Teer (1989) described the distribution of the jaguar in 
Mexico as a broad belt from central Mexico to Central America. However, 
Brown (1991) suggested that there may be more jaguars in northern 
Mexico than are officially reported. He mentioned reports of two 
jaguars, which were killed in central Sonora around 1970. He also 
discussed assertions by the local Indians that both male and female 
jaguars still occurred in the Sierra Bacatete about 200 miles (323 
kilometers) south of Arizona. Brown speculated that if a reproducing 
population of jaguars is still present in these mountains, it may be 
the source of individuals that travel northward through the Sierra 
Libre and Sierra de Madera and the possible source of the transient 
males that have been documented in the United States.
    Brown and Lopez-Gonzalez (2001) summarize reports of jaguars killed 
or captured in the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua from 1900 to 
2000. These authors also discuss an extant population of jaguars in the 
State of Sonora. They describe an extant population in the rugged 
barrancas connecting northern Sinaloa and Sonora and another population 
in the Sierra Bacatete area in southern Sonora. However, the most 
northern population of jaguars reported by Brown and Lopez-Gonzalez 
(2001) is in the area of the towns of Huasabas and Sahuaripa, 
approximately 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of the United States--
Mexico border.
    Rabinowitz (1997, 1999) suggested that there is a lack of evidence 
to support the presence of a significant United States population and 
stated that the southwestern United States has been ``never more than 
marginal habitat at the extreme northern limit of the jaguar's range.'' 
He stated that several points stand out: (1) The low number of 
confirmed or credible sightings in the last century imply that there 
was no more than small, short-lived populations in the United States 
over the last century; (2) 74 percent of the sightings being male may 
be indicative of dispersal movements from south of the border; (3) the 
likelihood of jaguars coming across the border from Mexico points to a 
strong possibility for jaguar populations in northern Mexico; (4) only 
three sightings of females with young in the early 1900s is not 
indicative of a long-term breeding population; and (5) the lack of 
references by Native Americans and early Europeans suggests a lack of 
permanent presence within the last several hundred years. He further 
concluded that there is no area in the United States that is critical 
for the survival of any northern jaguar population that may occur in 
Mexico, or for the species as a whole.

Previous Federal Actions

    For information on previous Federal actions concerning the jaguar, 
refer to the July 22, 1997, final listing rule (62 FR 39147).

Prudency Determination

    After a review of all available information, we have determined 
that designating critical habitat for the jaguar is not prudent. 
Section 4(a)(3) of the Act 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) and regulations (50 
CFR part 424) issued to implement the listing provisions of the Act set 
forth the procedures for designating critical habitat for a species. 
Under 50 CFR 424.12, we are required to designate critical habitat, to 
the maximum extent prudent and determinable, at the time a species is 
listed as endangered or threatened. Designation is not prudent when one 
or both of the following situations exist: (1) The species is 
threatened by taking or other human activity, and identification of 
critical habitat can be expected to increase the degree of such threat 
to the species, or (2) such designation of critical habitat would not 
be beneficial to the species.
    In the July 22, 1997, listing rule (62 FR 39147) we noted that the 
greatest threat to the jaguar was from direct taking of individuals 
through shooting or other means, and we determined that designating 
critical habitat for the jaguar was ``not prudent'' because 
``publication of detailed critical habitat maps and descriptions in the 
Federal Register would likely make the species more vulnerable to 
activities prohibited under section 9 of the Act.'' This reason is no 
longer valid. The Jaguar Conservation Team, Arizona Game and Fish 
Department, publications, and other sources routinely give specific and 
general locations of jaguars that have been sighted and currently are 
being documented in the United States through Web sites, public 
notifications, reports, books, and meeting notes. Publishing critical 
habitat maps and descriptions, as part of designating critical habitat, 
would not result in the species being more vulnerable in the United 
States than it is currently.
    In determining whether designation of critical habitat would be 
beneficial to the jaguar, we analyzed whether there are any physical 
and biological features in the United States that are essential to the 
conservation of the species and might, therefore, meet the definition 
of critical habitat. We did not consider designation of lands outside 
of the United States in this analysis because critical habitat cannot 
be designated in foreign countries (50 CFR 424.12(h)). ``Critical 
habitat'' is defined in section 3 of the Act as (i) the specific areas 
within the geographical area occupied by a species, at the time it is 
listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those physical or 
biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species 
and (II) that may require special management considerations or 
protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographical area 
occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. 
''Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures that are 
necessary to bring an endangered or a threatened species to the point 
at which listing under the Act is no longer necessary.
    The specific geographical areas of the United States occupied by 
the species at the time of the July 22, 1997, listing (62 FR 39147) 
includes southeastern Arizona and extreme southwestern New Mexico. 
Within these geographical areas, critical habitat would be only those 
areas that have the physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species and which may require special management 
considerations or protection. These features include, but are not 
limited to: Space for individual and population growth and for normal 
behavior; food, water, air, light, minerals or other nutritional or 
physiological requirements; cover or shelter; sites for germination or 
seed dispersal; and habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of the historical, geographical, and ecological 
distributions of a species (50 CFR 424.12b).
    As noted above, since the time of the July 22, 1997, listing (62 FR 
39147), only five transient males have been documented in the United 
States. These males are likely using areas within the United States 
sporadically for foraging. No breeding has been confirmed in the United 
States since 1910, and only three females with young have ever been 
documented. The areas where jaguars are occasionally seen are at the 

[[Page 39337]]

northern limit of the range of the species, and the best available 
scientific information suggests that no area within the United States 
is critical for the survival of the species (Rabinowitz 1997, 1999). 
Loss of or threats to features in the United States that may support 
these sporadic foraging events is not limiting the recovery of the 
species. Therefore, these features are not essential to the 
conservation of the species. Further, we are unaware that any physical 
and biological features within the United States are in need of special 
management considerations or protection for the purpose of jaguar 
conservation as jaguar conservation does not require habitat within the 
United States. Based on this information, we determine that the 
physical and biological features occasionally used by the jaguar within 
the geographical range occupied by the jaguar in the United States are 
not essential to the conservation of the species and, therefore, do not 
meet the definition of critical habitat.
    We are not allowed to designate habitat outside of the United 
States as critical habitat (50 CFR 424.12(h)). Further, section 3(5)(C) 
of the Act, indicates that except in circumstances determined by the 
Secretary, critical habitat shall not include the entire geographical 
area which can be occupied by the species. In other words, not all 
areas which can be occupied by individuals of a species are necessarily 
essential to the conservation of the species as a whole.
    The specific areas outside of the geographical area occupied in the 
United States by the species at the time of the July 22, 1997, listing 
(62 FR 39147), that is, the historical range, included portions of New 
Mexico, Arizona, California, Texas, and possibly Louisiana. For areas 
outside the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of 
listing, critical habitat is defined as the areas that are essential 
for the conservation of the species. The area in the United States that 
is sporadically used by jaguars is only a small part of the range of 
the northernmost population(s), which are based in Mexico, and appears 
to be less than one percent of the current range of the species 
(Wildlife Conservation Society 2006). Because the area used by jaguars 
in the United States is such a small part of the overall range of the 
species and because of nomadic use by jaguars, the range of the jaguar 
in the United States is not enough area to provide for the conservation 
(i.e., recovery) of the jaguar or even make a significant contribution 
to the conservation of the jaguar, and cannot be defined as essential 
to the conservation of the species. Any conservation actions for the 
jaguar that may bring the species to the point that the measures of the 
Act are no longer necessary will need to be implemented in Mexico and 
Central and South America. Thus, recovery of the species as a whole 
depends on conservation efforts in Mexico and Central and South 
    In summary, we do not find any habitats within the jurisdiction of 
the United States that meet the definition of critical habitat, i.e., 
habitats within the United States that contain the features essential 
for the conservation of the species and which may require special 
management considerations and protection, or areas outside of the 
geographical area occupied by the species that are considered essential 
to its conservation. Because there are no areas or features essential 
to the conservation of the jaguar in the United States that meet the 
definition of critical habitat, designation of critical habitat for the 
jaguar is not beneficial. We, therefore, determine that critical 
habitat for the jaguar is not prudent.
    Although we have determined that it is not prudent to designate 
critical habitat for the jaguar, areas occupied by jaguars in the 
United States will continue to be subject to conservation actions 
implemented under section 7(a)(1) of the Act, as well as consultation 
pursuant to section 7(a)(2) of the Act for Federal activities that may 
affect jaguars, as determined on the basis of the best available 
information at the time of the action. In addition, the prohibition of 
taking jaguars under section 9 of the Act (e.g., prohibitions against 
killing, harming, harassing, and capturing jaguars) continues to apply, 
which addresses the single greatest threat to the species in the United 
States, as discussed in the final listing rule.
    We will also use our authorities to work with agencies and other 
partners in Mexico and Central and South America to conserve and 
recover jaguars outside of the United States. We are currently working 
with the Jaguar Conservation Team and other partners in developing a 
framework for the conservation of the northern jaguar populations, 
including providing recommendations on research needs and procedures in 
the United States, continuing education efforts, and providing 
recommendations regarding predator control in areas where jaguars may 
occur. We are coordinating with Mexico and other partners on jaguar 
conservation in Mexico through the Trilateral Commission and other 
processes. Mexico and countries in Central and South America, along 
with their non-governmental partners, are continuing conservation 
efforts, including implementing research programs and developing 
conservation plans. Specifically, Federal and State agencies in Mexico 
are developing jaguar conservation plans; we intend to coordinate with 
Mexico in their development to maintain travel corridors for jaguars to 
the United States.

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this finding is 
available upon request from the Arizona Ecological Services Office (see 


    The primary author of this notice is the staff of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service.


    The authority for this action is the Endangered Species Act of 
1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.).

    Dated: June 30, 2006.
H. Dale Hall,
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. E6-10644 Filed 7-11-06; 8:45 am]