There is some debate over when the last verified Texas jaguar sighting occurred. I personally believe there are jaguars in Texas right now due to reports I have gathered and my two decades long study of the species.
In the course of this study I uncovered some fascinating verified jaguar reports in Texas’ past.
A strategy paper written by a jaguar counsel appointed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service detailed that, “newspaper report of a female killed and her 2 kittens captured in the Chiricahua Mountains in 1906 Texas, they but had become extremely rare.”
It also detailed that researcher R. Nowak believed that, “an established population once occurred in the dense thickets along the lower Nueces River and northeast to the Guadalupe River.”
He suggested that jaguars probably continued to wander from Mexico into the brush country of the southernmost part of the state.
“However, brush clearing and urbanization along the Texas/Mexico border has probably reduced chances for reestablishment of the species in Texas.”
Historian W.T. Block uncovered an article that ran in the Galveston Weekly News, Feb. 18, 1892 the Jasper Newsboy later reprinted.
“Quite a curiosity was filed with the commissioners’ court Monday under the Scalp Law, the scalp of an unusually large Mexican lion (jaguar), which was killed in the lower section of the county by John Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd and his son were in the thicket hunting and came upon the monster, which showed a disposition to fight rather than run. The boy shot the animal, and his father told him to run.”
“The boy never hesitated to take his father’s advice, whereupon the animal made at Mr. Shepherd, and he shot him in the head. After he was killed, it was found that the boy had also hit the animal in the head, but the ball had glanced off, without entering the skull. The skull shows the head to be very near, if not quite as large, as an ordinary African lion’s head.”
“The adult male panther perhaps reached a maximum length of five feet, exclusive of his three-foot tail, and reached a maximum weight of 250 pounds.”
That’s a big cat, folks and one that is undoubtedly part of Texas’ fascinating wild history.
(Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)