Requiem for a jaguar


On Feb. 20, we wrote that for the first time ever in the U.S., scientists had trapped a jaguar and fitted it with  a radio tracking collar.  Just 10 days later, though, the big cat was dead.

Known as Macho B, he had prowled 500 square miles of the U.S.-Mexico border region  for more than a decade (see our story "Cat Fight on the Border"). Distinguishable by a Pinocchio-shaped rosette on his side, he was photographed by remote cameras 63 times during those years. In his prime Macho B weighed up to to 150 pounds, but he was down to 118 when he was captured in February, although scientists thought the 16-year-old cat still looked to be "in fine shape." When he was recaptured last Sunday and euthanized by a zoo vet, kidney failure had whittled his frame to 99 pounds, reports the Arizona Republic.

Perhaps Macho B got caught the first time because illness had already slowed him down, making him less wary of free meals in metal boxes. Perhaps the stress of capture and sedation pushed his aging body past some limit. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate that a wild jaguar who'd survived the hazards of the border for 16 years had to spend his last hours being trundled to the zoo.

Macho B's death is a blow to jaguar recovery in the U.S. -- only six of the big cats have ever been documented in this country. The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's failure to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the jaguar. A hearing is scheduled for March 23 in Tucson, Ariz. “Macho’s legacy should be action to develop a science-based recovery plan and protection of the areas (jaguars) call home to ensure their survival,” wrote the Center's Michael Robinson in a press release.



Anonymous says:
Mar 04, 2009 06:54 AM
If Jodi's statement that only 6 jaguars have been documented in this country were true, then her reference to "recovery" of jaguars would be somewhat of a contradiction. Indicates there wasn't a real population to recover. However, many more than 6 have been documented over the years. See Dave Brown's book, Border Jaguars, for more complete records.
Anonymous says:
Mar 04, 2009 09:06 AM
Thanks for the comment, Harley. The number of officially-documented jaguars in the U.S. is between 3 and 6, according to conservationists and wildlife biologists. I haven't seen the referenced book, but it's certainly possible that other people have documented additional cats. The population of jaguars on the Mexican side of the border is estimated at 70 - 100, probably enough for recovery in the U.S. if the cats are allowed to expand northward.
Anonymous says:
Mar 04, 2009 10:33 AM
As Harley stated, I would also recommend you read Dave Brown's and Carlos Lopez-Gonzalez's book "Borderland Jaguars." Many more than 6 animals have been documented in the US over the years. I would also refer you to McCain and Childs (2008) "Evidence of resident jaguars in the SW USA..." Journal of Mammaology 89:1
As far as the number of jaguars in northern Mexico, there are no current definitive estimates. I assume that you refer to the state of Sonora when referring to "70-100" animals. There could be less depending how far you draw the buffer south of the border, and more than that if you were to look several hundred kilometers south of the border...
Anonymous says:
Mar 04, 2009 10:47 AM
Yes, the "70-100" estimate refers to the state of Sonora. I'm glad to hear that there are signs of more jaguars in the U.S. -- that should give a boost to critical habitat and recovery efforts .