Anytime that Joe Rogan and Steven Rinella get together, it’s going to be a great conversation. Rinella is one of the most legendary hunters in modern history. He started his career as a writer, but his adventurous show MeatEater has become the biggest hunting show on outdoor television. The show has been going strong since 2012 and is now a Netflix original. He’s hosted some pretty big names on his show, including country music star Luke Combs and MLB star Pete Alonso. Though the episode isn’t live yet, it also looks like Rinellla filmed a duck hunt with big-time musician Koe Wetzel last fall too, who also stopped by the MeatEater Podcast to chat. He’s also filmed quite a few episodes of hunting trips with Joe Rogan. The biggest name in podcasting has also hosted Rinella on the Joe Rogan Experience quite a few times as well.
A short video clip from Rinella’s most recent appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast has gotten a lot of people talking though. It’s racked up well over 1 million views on YouTube in just a month. The topic of the conversation centers around the controversial plan to begin reintroducing jaguars to the southwestern U.S. The almost 6 minutes of footage can be seen below.
The conversation starts from square one, as Rogan was totally unfamiliar with the topic at first. Rinella explains that it’s objectively true that a population of jaguars did indeed used to reside in the U.S. up until the 1800s.
Exploring The Controversial Plan To Reintroduce Jaguars To The Southwestern U.S.
Most of the debate hinges on the size of that population and its range. Historical reports confirm that jaguars definitely once roamed southern Arizona and parts of New Mexico. Other historical records report sightings of spotted cats in places like West Texas, Kansas, and Southern Colorado. Though it’s easy to chalk up those reports as people mistakenly identifying mountain lions, the reports specifically mention “lions and leopards.” As Rinella explains, they had to have meant jaguars instead of leopards which are only native to Africa.
According to National Geographic, a few jaguars are already roaming near the Mexico and Arizona border. In April 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed a study that indicates there is still a large chunk of interconnected and suitable jaguar habitat present in Arizona and New Mexico. That’s when discussions about proactive efforts to reintroduce the species to parts of the U.S. really started to take off. At least one jaguar has already spent some time on U.S. soil over the last decade as well.
As Rinella points out in his conversation with Rogan, the idea of restoring jaguar populations in America isn’t without controversy. Debates surrounding what core habitat for the big cats include continue to swirl. Federal protections would also need to be amended for the species. The potential construction of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico also complicates the issue. The thought of intentionally turning loose wild animals capable of killing people is also a concern. However, as Rinella explains, jaguars live such solitary lifestyles and in such low landscape-level populations across huge home ranges, that it’s very unlikely the species ever starts causing widespread problems.
Several Big Spotted Cats Have Been Sighted In The Southwestern U.S. In Recent Years
Probably the most infamous jaguar to have recently spent time on American soil is a big cat known as El Jefe. The jaguar whose nickname translates from Spanish to mean “The Boss” was repeatedly seen and photographed in the Whetstone and Santa Rita Mountains of Arizona between 2011 and 2015. Then he disappeared though, presumably back into Mexico. This was confirmed in 2021 when pictures confirmed to be El Jefe were taken in Sonora, Mexico. A jaguar nicknamed Macho B was also caught in a trap in Arizona in 2009. Though that cat was set free, he later had to be put down due to injuries caused by the snare trap.
Other more recent potential sightings of jaguars in Arizona include reports as recent as 2016, 2020, and 2021. Jaguars slowly creeping back into the U.S. on their own. With efforts underway to help proactively strengthen their comeback attempts, it’s feasible to think these absolutely amazing creatures could once again become a part of the wild folklore of the American southwest.