Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere, living primarily in Mexico along with Central and South America. They’re also known to roam southern Arizona and New Mexico as the only North American cat that roars.

The big cat’s pelt is dappled with black rosettes, with each jaguar displaying its own uniquely patterned coat. This helps biologists and game wardens to identify individuals during research studies and in the event one is killed illegally — an occurrence known as poaching.

Early uncontrolled hunting, trapping and habitat loss caused severe declines in its numbers and range. Today, poaching, human encroachment and limited habitat continue to limit populations, resulting in the jaguar’s inclusion on the U.S. endangered species list since 1972.

International trade of any part of a jaguar is prohibited and hunting them is illegal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the United States and Venezuela.

On Feb. 18, 2009, the Arizona Fish and Game Department was live-trapping bears and mountain lions southwest of Tucson to study their populations. To their surprise, they caught a very angry jaguar. That captured cat was identified as Macho B, a male jaguar documented by trail cameras during 13 years that was believed to be the oldest known jaguar in the wild at 15 to 16 years old.

Biologists fit him with a tracking collar in the hopes of learning more about the species’ existence in Arizona. Unfortunately, not long after his release, Macho B’s activity slowed and he was located and recaptured. He was discovered to be suffering from unrecoverable kidney failure and had to be euthanized.

There was a dark side to Macho B’s initial capture. A subsequent investigation found that the jaguar had been deliberately targeted by researchers, contrary to Arizona’s and federal research procedures, permits and laws, and well outside their assignment.

One Arizona Game and Fish Department employee was ultimately dismissed and a civilian researcher received a civil charge of $8,000 for snaring the endangered jaguar, along with revoked hunting, fishing and trapping privileges; an additional $1,000 fine; five years of probation; and the researcher is not allowed to be involved in large cat or carnivore research in the United States.

As stiff as these penalties sound, there are always those who ignore the mistakes of others and have little regard for wildlife.

One of three jaguars known to be living in the U.S. has now been killed by a poacher. Biologists examined a photograph of the big cat’s pelt and the animal’s unique markings and, just like a set of fingerprints, identified the poacher’s victim. The jaguar that researchers had dubbed Yo’oko was dead.

While it’s unclear who killed the cat or when it occurred, a June 28 report in the Arizona Daily Star implies that it may have been killed by a mountain-lion hunter. According to the column, a local rancher told the paper that he heard the cat was killed six months prior somewhere in Sonora, Mexico, near the U.S. border.

Some hypothesize that a trapper may have been hired to trap mountain lions to protect livestock and unintentionally caught the jaguar. The result was a dead cat that’s on the endangered species list.

Experience has taught me that sometimes stories are floated out as a predisclosure excuse. If killed accidentally, why not call authorities? Why skin the cat? If killed in Mexico, why was the pelt found in the U.S.? Secrets are hard to keep and I believe more information will follow, especially as rewards grow. Game wardens are certainly bird-dogging the situation and a two-legged cat may one day get skinned in court.

Jaguars once roared in the mountains and forests from Louisiana to southern California. They roamed the Grand Canyon, southern Colorado and Monterey. Like man, they were an apex predator on the prowl.

In the past 20 years, just seven jaguars have been photographed in the U.S., with only three being identified in the last three years. Now there are two.

“What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself.” — Mollie Beattie

Along the way:

Jackie Schnapp is a member of Mount Blanchard Gun Club, where she can be found working, promoting club activities and shooting trap. She recently took her shotgun skills to the 132nd Ohio State Trap Shooting Tournament held at the Cardinal Shooting Center in Marengo.

Congratulations are now in order! Breaking 94 of the 100 targets thrown during event 10, Jackie finished as the runner-up in a field of 780 shooters in the Lady 2 Division. Great job!

The Ohio State Trapshooting tournament is one of the largest trapshooting events in the country, with as many as 1,500 shooters from more than 30 states competing for money, big-ticket prizes and bragging rights.

If you would like to get involved in trapshooting or prepare for the next state shoot at the Cardinal Center, a great place to start is at the Mount Blanchard Gun Club at 21655 Delaware Township 186. They shoot the first Sunday every month and non-members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

“Any woman who does not thoroughly enjoy tramping across the country on a clear, frosty morning with a good gun and a pair of dogs does not know how to enjoy life.” — Annie Oakley, 1895

Step outside:

• You have a special invitation from Elkhorn Lake Hunt Club. Join the fun and support game wardens from across the United States and Canada at the Ohio Turn In a Poacher and International Wildlife Crimestoppers sporting clays fundraiser on July 21.

Enjoy a great lunch cooked by game wardens visiting from Maine and New Hampshire who were featured on the Animal Planet TV show, “North Woods Law.” Get your picture made with the show’s TV stars while supporting a cause that affects everyone: the protection of wildlife resources from poaching!

Four-man team registration has been reduced to only $500 or $125 per shooter, including lunch. Please help them by registering early! For team registration, contact Ron Ollis at 419-569-4074 or email RO@stopallpoachiing.org or Candice Henderson at wildlifecrimestoppers@gmail.com.

• Tomorrow: Sporting clays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

• Thursday and Friday: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay.

Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard 45867-0413 or via email at jimsfieldnotes@aol.com.

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