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Jaguar Critical Habitat Designation Causes Concern for Southwestern Ranchers


June 2013 - August 2016


The United States Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for jaguars (Panthera onca) in April 2014, in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Ranchers in the region have expressed concern and apprehension toward the designation. Our objective was to understand what specifically ranchers are concerned about, and investigate the larger political setting of federally designated critical habitat for jaguars. We conducted semi-structured, key informant interviews with nine leaders in the ranching community. To address our objective, we investigated the interviewees’ attitudes of wildlife conservation in general, perceived impacts that jaguar critical habitat designation could have on their operation, and opinions of the government’s role in managing resources for wildlife. The interviewees were fully supportive of wildlife conservation and felt they were intrinsically important to providing habitat for wildlife. All interviewees agreed jaguars were a unique, rare species, but they were all against federally designated jaguar critical habitat. Their concerns fell out into three categories: direct impacts to ranching operations, political concerns, and concerns resulting from larger, overriding issues in the region. We found that interviewees’ concerns are likely a reflection of deeper-seated values pertaining to centralized government. The issue is more complex and nuanced, and moves beyond concerns about limitations on range management. To best work with this population for jaguar conservation, the role of adaptive management and conservation incentives should be explored as possible remedies. This work contributed to a thesis and a publication in Rangelands.

Research Products and Activities

Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Svancara, C. M., A. M. Lien, W. T. Vanasco, L. López-Hoffman, S. A. Bonar, and G. B. Ruyle. 2015. Jaguar critical habitat designation causes concern for Southwestern ranchers. Rangelands 37(4):144-151.


  • Svancara, C. M. 2015. Human dimensions of endangered species conservation: Southwestern ranchers’ concerns about jaguar (Panthera onca) critical habitat designation and interest in conservation incentives. MS. Thesis, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.


  • Svancara, C., L. Lopez-Hoffman, and S. Bonar. 2014. Perceptions and concerns with jaguar conservation: nine rancher case studies in southern Arizona. 47th Joint Annual Meeting of the AZ and NM Chapters of the American Fisheries Society and The Wildlife Society, Pinetop Arizona, February 6-8, 2014
  • Svancara, C., A. Lien, W. Vanasco, L. Lopez-Hoffman, S. Bonar, and G. Ruyle. Identifying ranching leaders’ opinions of jaguar conservation and concerns with endangered species management through focused interviews. 47th Joint Annual Meeting of the Arizona/New Mexico Chapters of the Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society, Las Cruces, New Mexico, February 5-7, 2015. Contributed Oral Presentation.

  • Svancara, C., A. M. Lien, W. T. Vanasco, S. A. Bonar, G. B. Ruyle, and L. López-Hoffman. 2016. Can incentives help overcome landowner concerns about conserving endangered species on their land? A rancher case study about jaguar critical habitat and rangeland conservation.; 49th Joint Annual Meeting Arizona and New Mexico Chapters of The Wildlife Society and Arizona/New Mexico Chapter of The American Fisheries Society, February 4-6, 2016, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4253



  • Scott BonarCo-Principal Investigator
  • Colleen SvancaraStudent

Funding Agencies

  • USGS


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey