Oct 24, 2012 10:05 AM by Samantha Ptashkin
TUCSON- The jaguar is an animal surrounded by mystery, but now the endangered species is also surrounded by controversy.
The Center for Biological Diversity is pressing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside millions of acres of land in Arizona and New Mexico for jaguars. In August, the agency proposed setting aside about 800,000 acres. "They move a lot in search of mates and prey and they need to be able to have corridors to move in between mountain ranges," says Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Serraglio says it's the only way to restore the jaguar population, which he says is necessary to keep the food chain in order. "I think there's plenty of room in Arizona for people to survive and jaguars to survive along with them," Serraglio says.
But not everyone is on board with the idea.
The executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association calls the idea "ridiculous." One Marana cattle rancher who talked to News 4 Tucson agreed. "Typically with endangered species, critical habitat regulations become restrictions on things that you can do," Cindy Coping says.
Coping worries those restrictions may include a cap on her number of cattle, as well as a hunting ban. "If there are restrictions on predator control, then the ranch is more susceptible to losing livestock to lion predation," Coping says.
No word yet on when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will make a decision.