Was our last wild jaguar euthanized by mistake?



Until today, this was the sad story of Macho B, the last known wild jaguar in our country:

The jaguar was snared by accident south of Tucson Feb. 18. Wildlife agents decided to strap it with a radio collar to study its movements. Then they noticed the jaguar behaving strangely for 12 days, so they recaptured it, to see if it could be helped somehow. Then wildlife vets decided the jaguar had suffered kidney failure, and they euthanized it March 2.

And this has been the controversial question: Did the jaguar's handling by people -- the snaring and radio-collaring -- stress the jaguar enough to contribute to its death?

Since the death, there's been a swell of public sentiment that may lead to more effort to preserve habitat for wild jaguars.

Now, the Arizona Daily Star reports a new controversy that may make Macho B's story even sadder:

A pathologist, Sharon Dial, at the University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, has examined tissue samples from the jaguar, and she says the jaguar's kidneys may have been OK and the jaguar may have been euthanized by mistake.

... Bloodwork (that) state Game and Fish officials said showed "off the charts" kidney failure could actually have indicated dehydration, said Sharon Dial of the veterinary lab.

The (Phoenix Zoo vets) should have kept the animal on intravenous fluids for 24 to 48 hours before euthanizing it, Dial said. State Game and Fish officials and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials agreed to euthanize the animal about five hours after he first got fluids ...

"Nothing is absolute. There is nothing to say that he absolutely would have recovered, but I can say by looking at the kidneys that there is no structural reason why he would not have," Dial said last week. "... (Macho B) had damned good looking kidneys."

The update, by Tony Davis at the Star -- you may need to register to see it -- carries the headline:

"Did Macho B Have to Die?"


About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.