3 min read

Only Two Wild Jaguars Were Left In U.S. — One Just Turned Up Dead

"The thought of having to explain to those kids at Hiaki High School that somebody killed their favorite jaguar really just breaks my heart.”

A photograph has just surfaced that suggests Yo'oko, one of the last remaining wild jaguars in the U.S., has been killed. 

The photograph, which was released to the public by the Northern Jaguar Project, shows a jaguar pelt with extremely similar markings to the pattern of Yo'oko's fur. 

Jaguar pelt believed to be Yo'oko's
Jaguar pelt believed to be Yo'oko's | Northern Jaguar Project/photographer unknown

Yo'oko, who was named by students at Hiaki High School in Tucson, Arizona, last year, was photographed by trail cameras several times in the last couple of years. Wildlife experts compared the photographs of Yo'oko with the photograph of the pelt, which was taken in Mexico; the fur pattern appeared identical.

“This tragedy is piercing,” Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a press release provided to The Dodo. “It highlights the urgency to protect jaguar habitat on both sides of the border and ensure that these rare, beautiful cats have safe places to live ... The thought of having to explain to those kids at Hiaki High School that somebody killed their favorite jaguar really just breaks my heart.”

Y'oko the jaguar
An image of Yo'oko in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona in late 2016 | University of Arizona/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While jaguars once lived all through the southwest U.S., habitat destruction and hunting (to make room for cattle ranching) nearly wiped them out entirely. Over the past 20 years, just seven jaguars have been seen in the U.S. It's believed that Yo'oko was just one of two living in the U.S. today.

“We must continue working to overcome the cultural prejudice that jaguars are somehow enemies of people,” Serraglio said. “Indigenous people of the Americas have revered jaguars as majestic, powerful spirits of the wild for thousands of years. Whoever killed Yo’oko could learn a lot from them.”