TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Could a big cat scratch a big business project?
An endangered species, a jaguar, has been spotted close to the proposed Rosemont copper mine.
Environmentalists say the cat needs the land more than the mine does.
We are used the idea of Jaguars prowling deep green jungles. But one has been prowling the desert between Tucson and Sonoita.
University of Arizona researchers caught him on automatic cameras several times over several months.
He was roaming near the same part of the Santa Rita Mountains where Rosemont Copper is trying to convince regulators to allow a big copper mine---a mine that would cover more than seven square miles.
"It's a deal breaker," says Randy Serraglio of the Center for Biological Diversity. He believes evidence the Jaguar uses this land should end plans for the mine to take out a big bite of habitat.
"We'll never have jaguar back in the United States if we destroy a major wildlife corridor like this."
Rod Pace, the mine's CEO, says one cat's not enough to scratch the project.
"When the mine goes in, the jaguar, he's going to keep away from the mine and there's plenty of territory around he can wander."
Pace contends the real home for Jaguars is from Mexico into South America.
"That's where the work effort ought to go towards saving these Jaguars and protecting them."
But environmentalists say Jaguars evolved here and man made forces pushed them south.
Now the US Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into what's best for animals and the rest of the environment where Rosemont Copper wants to dig. That report will be part of how the government decides if Rosemont uses the land, or leaves it to nature.