There are intruders invading from our Southern border! No, not illegal immigrants -- jaguars. Having not been seen in the Southwest for some time, some of them have started to filter in from Mexico. The NYTimes reports:
Using the same clandestine routes as drug smugglers, male jaguars are crossing into the United States from Mexico.
Four of the elusive cats have been photographed in the last decade -- one as recently as last February -- in the formidable, rugged mountain ranges of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
And while no one knows exactly how many jaguars are here, or how long they hang around before sneaking back to their breeding grounds in Mexico, their presence has set off repercussions on both sides of the border.
At least 10 organizations are working to protect the jaguar in one or both countries. Conservationists are developing incentives to stop bounty hunters in Mexico from killing the big cats. Cameras have been set up near the border to monitor jaguar comings and goings and, inadvertently, the movements of "mules," or drug runners.
Some environmentalists are pressing federal officials to declare parts of Arizona and New Mexico critical habitat for jaguars. But local ranchers and many jaguar experts say such a move is unnecessary because the animals show no signs of breeding here.
And then there is the fence. If the Border Patrol builds a 700-mile barrier in the region to deter illegal immigration, the natural corridors used by jaguars and other migratory wildlife will be cut off.
It cracks me up that they are catching pictures of jaguars with cameras used to catch illegal immigrants, but this could turn out to be a real conflict. If we were to create an effective barrier to immigration, would that barrier stop jaguar migration -- or any other species for that matter?
When I was a student at Stanford, there was this endangered species called the Tiger Salamander that would migrate down from the hills in the Spring to this lake in order to have mad salamander orgies and create a new generation of salamanders. They had to cross this road and were getting killed wholesale by passing cars. Stanford decided to hire this company to build little tunnels under the road so that the salamanders could cross without getting squished.
It didn't work -- the stupid things ignored the tunnels, kept trying to cross the road, and continued to be squished. Then environmentally conscious students had the idea that they would pick them up and carry them across the road -- until it was realized that there was a very reasonable possiblity that one of them might get squished too. (I don't think any of them actually was.)
Anyway, perhaps the US government could waste its money on a vast wall of some sort with little jaguar tunnels under it for them to pass through? Oh, wait...
Or maybe, we could just accept illegal immigration and save everyone a lot of time and trouble.