We examined the presence of the jaguar Panthera onca, and human–jaguar interactions, in a community-dominated montane tropical forest landscape with formally recognized indigenous/community conserved areas in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca state, Mexico. We used camera traps to detect jaguars, and social data were collected through informal interviews and 46 semi-structured and 106 structured interviews with community leaders and members. During June 2007–June 2008 camera traps registered two jaguars in the four study communities after 1,164 trap nights, with a photo-capture rate of 7.8 jaguar captures per 1,000 trap nights. Interviews documented 86 jaguar sightings since 1990. Despite some history of livestock predation, 68% of the interviewed farmers indicated jaguar presence was positive, 20% that jaguar presence was both positive and negative, and 12% thought jaguars were a negative presence. All of the respondents with negative attitudes had either owned cattle previously or lost cattle to predation. Despite ongoing risks to jaguars the emergence of community-conserved areas, local conservation initiatives, and a community-imposed hunting ban are supported by 93% of community members. An emerging culture of conservation in the study communities suggests there is an opportunity for jaguar conservation on community lands that should be explored elsewhere in jaguar range countries.