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Oct 2, 2012 7:36 PM by Leasa Conze

Mysterious cat caught on cam - is it a jaguar or an ocelot?

TUCSON - A camera snapshot taken southeast of Tucson is under analysis, in hopes that experts can determine whether it's an ocelot or a jaguar roaming Southern Arizona.

The last sighting of a jaguar in Arizona was by a hunter whose dogs treed the cat last year. Before that, no jaguar had been seen since February 2009 when Macho B was euthanized, weeks after it was outfitted with a tracking collar.

The new photo taken September 23 includes only the tail and a small part of a hind quarter of the animal.

"We have definitely determined that it is either a jaguar or an ocelot, but we need to do further analysis of the animal's spot patterns and size to try to positively identify which species it is," said Game and Fish Nongame Branch Chief Eric Gardner.

Hunters have reported four of the last five confirmed jaguar sightings in Arizona. Sportsmen also have given Game and Fish two sets of trail camera photos of an ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains this year.

Jaguars have been protected within the U.S. since 1997 and outside the U.S. since 1973.

Southern Arizona is thought to be the most northern range for jaguars; they roam down through Mexico, Central America and into South America.

Ocelots, small to medium-sized spotted cats with a long tail, have been on the Endangered Species List since 1982. Their current range is the eastern and western lowlands of Mexico, from southern Mexico through Central America and into the lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Argentina.

They also occupy a small fringe area in the U.S., with a remnant population in Southern Texas.

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