May 8th, 2008
10:53 AM ET

The U.S. Jaguar: Threatened by the Mexico border-fence?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/TECH/science/05/05/jaguars.fence/art.recent.jag.jpg
caption="Rancher Glenn calls the jaguar a 'beautiful, magnificent cat' that must be saved for future generations."]

Rusty Dornin
CNN Correspondent

When most people think of jaguars they think of the jungles of Central and South America, not the remote desert ranges between the United States and Mexico. When I heard jaguars were coming north across the border and that some there believe the border fence might stop that, I was intrigued.

It was a 20 mile drive on a dirt road south of Douglas, Arizona to reach Warner Glenn's ranch. At six foot six, with his tanned face and steely blue eyes, Glenn may be close to seventy years old, but he is every inch the American cowboy. With Glenn and his daughter Kelly, we saddled up mules and rode up steep canyons to nearly 6 thousand feet. We could see more than 50 miles in every direction, as Glenn pointed out the craggy outcropping where he took the very first picture of a live jaguar in the United States in 1996.

Despite the fact jaguars might prey on his cattle, Glenn’s passionate in his belief that this elusive cat should be allowed to roam back and forth across the border. “I’d be willing to donate a few calves to this animal, says Glenn, ‘it’s a beautiful magnificent cat and I would had to see us do anything that could cause the survival of the cat to go backwards”.

But Glenn and others believe the border fence built to the south of his ranch might do just that. ‘It will stop wildlife, says Glenn, “ but it’s not going to stop the people”. He’s even sponsored a jaguar fund to discourage ranchers from shooting the cat. Any ranchers who lose cattle will be re-imbursed from the fund. So far, no cattle lost.

Three hours to the north, we followed a friend of Glenn and fellow mountain lion tracker Jack Childs to see how his encounter with a jaguar changed his life. Childs organized the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project after he shot the first video of a jaguar just months after Glenn spotted his in 96’. We hiked with he and biologist Emil McCain up into the mountains to see one of their 50 remote cameras they’ve set up to monitor the jaguars. The camera captured shots of mountain lions, coyotes and rabbits, but no jaguars, at least this time. Since 2001, they’ve captured more than 64 images of 3 different cats. Childs and McCain agree with Glenn, they don’t believe the fence will stop illegals or drug runners.

Along a 12 mile stretch of the border fence near Naco, Arizona you can often hear the wind howling through the mesh. Border landowner Bill Odell says he can hear it from inside his house. Odell showed us a ladder and piece of rope he found next to the fence. Obviously he says, someone used it to get over the top. He also showed us a picture of three deer staring at the border fence. ‘The first thing I saw was road runners and rabbits, they were just trying to go back and forth trying to figure out a way to get through it”.

Congress has mandated that 470 miles of fence be completed by the end of the year. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Cherthoff says to make that happen at least 30 environmental laws will have to be waived. He says they will continue to work with landowners and be respectful of the environment,

But he told Congress “we’re going to be expeditious”.

Environmentalists are in an uproar and both the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have filed lawsuits to stop the waivers.

What does it all mean to this rare and exotic cat? No one really knows. But it’s clear for many people here, the jaguar represents what’s left of the wild west and no one seems to want to see that disappear any time soon.

Editor's Note: For more on the boder-fence dispute with the jaguar, check out Rusty's full story here

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Rick

    Yeah, I feel more empathy for the jaguars than I do the illegals who have forced us to take drastic action, and build the border fence. Unfortunately, the situation is what it is, and we must continue building the fence. The tree huggers and nature nuts are just going to have to suck it up on this one... If jaguars are prevented from entering the United States, and the fence has the same effect on stemming illegal immigration into our country, it is well worth it. Frankly, I don't think we are doing enough to stop illegals from coming here. Let the border guards do their jobs, and let them stop these people. It's that simple. However, we have these wimpy politicians who have told them to NOT guard the border properly (pandering for votes). I say electrify the fence to make it even more effective! In addition, maybe build a moat with gators... Once you let the illegals know how truly unwelcome they are, things might get better.

    May 9, 2008 at 12:12 am |
  2. WesM

    John said "A fence will not stop illegal immigrants."

    That is probably true... what will slow them down could be signs in Spanis [Spit!] the read "You are entering a Free Fire Zone. Head South or be prepared to stop a bullet"

    Then enforce the warning with a Barnett 50 caliber rifle with Day and Night scopes. Wouldn't take too many bodies rotting in the sun to get the point across.

    ... a Plus I just thought of... jaguar food! Hey, we all win!

    May 8, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  3. Matt Hogstrom

    Well, its like triaging wounds on a battlefield. It would be nice to let the Jaguar run free but in this case, "Vio con Dios"

    May 8, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  4. Jolene

    Rusty: It was nice seeing a report from you, haven't seen you in awhile. It was exciting to see the pics and videos of the jaguars. What beautiful creatures. I guess only time will tell whether building a fence really keeps away illegal immigrants. I can only hope that there will be statistics tracked to show the benefit of this fence. Because if that's not the case or the fence is not a form of securing our borders, then a portion of that fence should be removed to allow this endangered species a chance to survive. I hope you keep us updated as to the status of the jaguars. Thanks.

    May 8, 2008 at 9:28 pm |
  5. Mike in NYC

    Norman in LA wrote:

    "There is far more damage to the environment from illegals trampling plants and leaving their wastes than anything a fence can do."

    I've seen pictures of this. It's absolutely disgusting. They don’t even have the decency to bury it.

    Annie Kate wrote:

    "... there may be other animals trying to migrate north to cooler climates so they will not go extinct."

    Kind of sums up the illegal immigration situation.

    May 8, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    So the fence will keep out the wildlife, limiting their habitat, but it won't keep out people which is its purpose. I think instead of carrying on the Bush grand tradition of waiving environmental laws no matter what the cost to get this fence done, the time would be better spent on figuring out how to keep the illegal immigrants out and not impact the wildlife. This fence sounds like it is just a political move to be able for Bush to say he tried to secure our borders.

    As the climate warms up there may be other animals trying to migrate north to cooler climates so they will not go extinct – it would be tragic if a fence stopped their migration.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 8, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  7. Norman in Los Angeles

    John-please explain how a fence will not stop illegals when it has stopped them in San Diego? You are part of the problem

    May 8, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  8. Norman in Los Angeles

    The double fence in San Diego has been proven to stop illegal immigrants-the fence works!! It is ignorant to state that a virtual fence can stop anything-it must be real, solid, 30 feet high and double!
    There is far nmore damage to the environment from illegals trampling plants and leavign their wastes than anything a fence can do

    Stop the flow!! Build the fence!!

    May 8, 2008 at 8:24 pm |
  9. john

    The nature did not built fences to keep inside a territory.

    why then, should we build fences ??....when we were created, god have us the entire earth for all of us.

    And even worse, why should we intervene and l imitate the territory of other species?

    A fence will not stop illegal immigrants.

    May 8, 2008 at 8:04 pm |
  10. Mike in NYC

    A creative new angle for the pro-illegal crowd. Stopping the invasion will kill the jaguar!

    Not too long ago it was the "property rights" argument.

    They have no shame, absolutely none.

    May 8, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  11. Wally

    Let's see,... do we want terrorists, illegal immigrants and drug smugglers crossing the border or do we wish to protect the breeding patterns of a dangerous cat? People obviously are in a state of disarrange if animanl safety is put before public safety. A fence may be the only thing that keeps these cats alive, if they're lucky enough to end up on this side of the fence. Otherwise, the people down south may be having a fiesta.

    May 8, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  12. Dianne

    obviously I meant to type WILDlife

    May 8, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Dianne

    anything Anderson Cooper is for – I am too! Especially when it concerns wilflife! Go get 'em Anderson

    May 8, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  14. sara. .minneapolis

    That jaguar's gorgeous! I had no idea we had any in the US. The whole fence thing is pretty stupid, it's a shame it'll affect the environment negatively, and sounds like it'll have a greater impact on wildlife than on stemming illegal border crossings.

    May 8, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Donna A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    The border fence along with the wall being constructed by the Israelis threatens the migratory patterns of wildlife. These two barriers are going to lead to extinction of many mammals, reptiles, and some birds. Our ecosystem will be paying a price to high to pay for human kind's folly.

    The people whose tunnel vision view of the world will be Earth's destruction.

    May 8, 2008 at 2:56 pm |
  16. Jane, Detroit, MI

    Oh, so that is why over 3000 illegal immigrants a day cross over into the U.S., because we are trying to save the jaguar. Now it all makes sense. Get real, we need to secure our border with barbed wire electric fences, crocodile moats and armed military guards. Myanmar has better protected borders than we do. I like the jaguar species, but it does not exclusively have to survive straddling the U.S.-Mexico Border. If this is really a problem, maybe we can quarantine a wildlife refuge for them, but we need to keep our borders intact.

    May 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm |
  17. Rekha Joy Raman

    Thank you Rusty Dornin and Rancher Glenn for your amazing reporting and brave efforts to preserve the jaguar!

    May 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm |
  18. Rekha Joy Raman

    Thank you Rusty Dornin for your wonderful reporting- something so different from the usual boring news. And Rancher Glenn kudos to your verve and tenacity in working towards preserving the life of the jaguar. I hope this story enlightens one and all in preserving the glorious foundation of our earth- her graceful wildlife! And her natural safari is not tampered with by ignorant, selfish brutes who don't know the difference between day and night.

    May 8, 2008 at 1:31 pm |
  19. Rekha Joy Raman

    I would suggest that ranchers should provide for the sustenance of the jaguars plying in that region, despite the building of the Mexican/U.S border fence. So instead of shooting down jaguars insensitively and indiscriminately as if they were wild bison, ranchers should take turns in providing fodder for the jaguar to feed on (their cattle) for which they will be reimbursed. That way they don't have to be that tight-lipped about how important it is to conserve the beautiful, majestic jaguar.
    Because it the nature and the wildlife around us that illuminates the sensitivity in us and makes us remember what a gorgeous landscape Earth is. Without her wildlife such as this graceful wildcat, Earth would be shorn of her precious wool and it would be very difficult to regrow what's close to extinction.

    May 8, 2008 at 1:26 pm |
  20. Michelle

    Will 360 be doing a report on the jaguars and the disappearing
    bees ? This sounds like some amazing video. Will we get to see
    the video of the jags roaming freely ? It sounds like an amazing PIP is in the works
    for 08 since some things are shaping up as humans vs nature.

    May 8, 2008 at 1:13 pm |
  21. Bev. NY

    It is very refreshing to see a cattleman with the view Mr. Glenn has. Hopefully, more like him will let this beautiful cat live the life it is supposed to, without being slaughtered to extinction.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  22. Betty Ann

    Hi Rusty,
    Everything humans do affect the environment we live in. As the stewards of this magnificient planet we are not doing our job.
    The jaguar is a beautiful creature who also lives here in east texas.
    Thanks for bringing this topic to our attention.
    Let's hope this animal is not made to suffer from man's hand.

    Betty Ann

    May 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm |
  23. Mark

    'Secretary Michael Cherthoff says to make that happen at least 30 environmental laws will have to be waived. He says they will continue to work with landowners and be respectful of the environment,

    But he told Congress “we’re going to be expeditious”.'

    How can we waive 30+ environment laws in an expeditious manner and be respectful of the environment. Those laws are there for a reason. Without taking the time to study the impact of the fence, we cannot be respectful.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm |
  24. Cindy

    Well I m glad that at least some one is looking out for the wildlife there in Arizona. I can see the predicament that they are in. We do have to keep our borders more secure to keep anyone and everyone from pouring in at will but we should also think of how a fence will disrupt or even harm the animals ways of life.

    This is a hard one. You will never be able to come up with a compromise that will please both sides. But honestly in my view these jaguars and other animals will continue to thrive in Mexico with or without our fence. Building the fence will keep them out of the U.S. but it won't endanger their species. So what is the big deal?

    May 8, 2008 at 11:22 am |