Jaguar Spotted in Hidalgo County
By Wayne Lee

The big cat sneaks in at night, skulks
around the mounds of trash and hulks
of stranded cars and trucks, past embers
of abandoned campfires and mounds
of human waste. He leaves his Sonoran
Desert lair and wanders far into the States
for prey to carry home for mate and cubs.

He is one of the young, hungry males,
their buff-colored coats and black rosettes
undetectable at night, invisible but for
their hand-sized tracks in arroyo sand
in cottonwood canyons leading north.

Once there were thousands of his kind
roaming the prehistoric continent.
Now they’re just a memory in most
of the Americas, except for Hidalgo
and a smattering of other border lands.
Soon Panthera onca could be gone
for good from the Peloncillo Mountains,
the Blue Range, the Black Range
of the great Gila Forest.

Soon they could be joined by kit fox
and ringtail cat, javelina and mule deer—
all could be erased, their habitat
supplanted by feral hogs, Norway rats
and gypsy moths. They’ll try to feed on
ox-eye daisy, cheatgrass, leafy spurge—
but that is not a diet for survival.

Just ask the natives: predator and prey
are one and the same—endangered,
invasive, exotic—all could someday
succumb on land laid bare by duck
plague, bird flu and white pine blister rust.

Then all we would have are elders’ tales
told round creosote campfires, stories
of saguro that toppled when soil underfoot
grew hard as concrete, of red-tailed deer
that starved when indigents camped out
in their thickets. And of jaguars big as bear
that roared their rage in fading light.