Investigating the Death of Macho B, America's Last Known Wild Jaguar

By Rachel Cernansky | April 6, 2009 4:47 pm

jaguar.jpgA criminal investigation has been launched into the capture and death of Macho B, the last known wild jaguar in the United States. He was at least 15 years old, making him the oldest wild jaguar ever reported. He was first captured in a leg-hold snare outside Tucson, Arizona, on February 18. Described as healthy, he was tranquilized and fitted with a radio-collar by which he could be tracked by satellite, and released. On March 2, when wildlife officials decided he was in poor health, they recaptured him with tranquilizing darts and flew him to the Phoenix Zoo. He was euthanized at the zoo the very same day because a veterinarian said Macho B had irreversible kidney failure.

Questions were soon raised about the circumstances of the incident. Macho B had been observed by remote cameras, but conservationists had argued that no attempt should be made to snare the animal, especially considering his age. The Arizona Game and Fish Department “did not authorize or condone intentional initial capture of this jaguar,” it said in a statement [The New York Times]. However, a biologist who was working as a consultant to the department, Emil McCain, may have instructed an employee to snare the jaguar. A field technician claims that McCain gave her female jaguar scat in February, and told her to place it at the snare trap site. The scat had been used several times to attract Macho B to come within camera range [The New York Times]. McCain has denied the allegation.

Wildlife officials are also investigating whether stress from his capture had caused or exacerbated Macho B’s condition. A necropsy was performed, and [on March 4] Phoenix Zoo Executive Vice President Dr. Dean Rice [said] the capture probably played a key role in the jaguar’s death [Los Angeles Times].

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which bears legal responsibility for the protection of endangered species including the jaguar, has now launched an investigation to “look at all aspects leading up to the trapping of the animal all the way through to the decision to euthanize it” [The New York Times]. The investigation will probe into a number of issues, including whether Macho B’s capture was legal, and whether it was intentional or not; the factors that led to the recapture of Macho B; his state of health before being euthanized; and why a more thorough autopsy was not performed, instead of what was called a cosmetic necropsy that was designed to preserve the jaguar’s hide so it could be used for scientific, educational or religious purposes [Arizona Daily Star].

The fate of the jaguar in this country is now in the hands of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the nation’s point person for safeguarding our natural treasures. While recovery plans are standard for animals on the US list of endangered species, Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service unsuccessfully argued in court that it need not restore the jaguar since most of the species occurs outside of the United States [Boston Globe].

Related Content:
80beats: The World’s Endangered Species List Is Endangered
80beats: Obama Brings Experts Back to Endangered Species Policy

Image: Wikimedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • patrick

    We should take some of these wildlife officials and see how they like being shot with tranquilizer darts and manipulated against their will.

    Those tranquilizers should be used in emergencies only, not every time an officer gets curious.

    “Ooh, here look, it’s the last known jaguar in the U.S. Let’s catch him and study him to see how he lived for so long.”

    Well, he probably lived for 15 years because he wasn’t repeatedly snared and shot with drugs.

    Was he aggressive?

    Was there any other legitimate reason, other than study, to capture the animal?

    Any wildlife officer with any sense would disobey an order to trap and shoot an elderly, endangered animal. The individual who shot the animal should be as responsible as the one who gave the order.

    If more people were willing to be insubordinate when the time was right, the world would probably be a better place.

  • Pat M

    Of course, the allegation (with the last administration, certainly) was that protecting the jaguar was very inconvenient because it got in the way of building the border fence. (Never mind that the border fence was deemed unnecessary in places where it cut across — say — a nice golf course or housing development). Historically, the jaguar ranged over a large swath of the Southwestern U.S. — from California to Louisiana. It — and all the many smaller animals and plants that thrive where the jaguar lives — deserves Federal protection. I am glad the government is investigating the death of this animal.

  • Timmy

    If more people were willing to be insubordinate when the time was right, the world would probably be a better place.

    well said… well said

  • Robert

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” quote from a Stephen Hawking presentation.

    The AZ Maim & Squish strikes again…. HAPPY HOUR awaits in town at @ 4:29 pm

    The #1 question I have, “ Is why were they setting snares for big cats/bears in known Jaguar habitat?? DUH
    Is the AZ Maim & Squish Commission so blind to what is happening on the ground.. More politicians I guess or just manipulated by the wildlife mis-managers??

    Now go look at the success of the Macho AZ Maim & Squish with the support of USF&W in their other efforts such as the Black Footed Ferret…Bob White Quail…Sonoran Antelope… Condors…Mexican Grey Wolves…Thick Bill Parrot… all the little fishies plus so many other total failures. Can you find the real facts of “expert” researchers that banded the 11 Mexican Spotted Owls up on the Rim, and they only killed 8 of them??? GOOD JOB GUYS !!! KNOTT!!
    Please check out the other ruined species to verify …This is YOUR tax dollars at work.. Compare Project $$$ to species Population numbers.. then ask why Arizona State GOV is bankrupt and laying off School Teachers and public works employees. Butt still pour Millions of $$$ into Quail..Ferrets..Antelope..Wolves….ALL to enrich our lives???? HOGG WASH!!!

    It is such a shame for Jack Booted Thugs to be able to break every rule that they are sworn to enforce in the name of “RESEARCH & MIS-MAMAGEMENT” then say how sorry they are that things like this happens… NOW where is MY PAYCHECK/Grant Money???!!!.

    YESS.. I have been in a close working relationship with the AZ Maim & Squish and in my humble opinion their “expert” wildlife management tactics SUCK!!!

    Did you know that it is approved for the AZ Maim & Squish wildlife mis-managers to shoot coyotes and other wildlife from inside a vehicle or aircraft??? You try this and you “go directly to jail, do not pass go” USF&W is paid to do the same.. its called “gunning”… I would sure like to see the N.E.P.A. Document on that !!!

    I am sure that you can tell by my writing that I am a simple country bumpkin, with a passion for ecosystems and the treasures they hold and NOT much of a fan of the government “experts” that show up with a paper degree stating what kind of “oligist” they are… “We are from the Government, and we are here to help!”

    I am deeply saddened that such a magnificent animal had to die to bring the follies of the AZ Maim & Squish + USF&W to national attention, I am sure that it will all be swept under the carpet and forgot within a year or so..

    If heads don’t roll from the top down.. this Old Jaguar died for nothing !!

  • Giles

    Robert’s last comment is important. Someone at the top of AZGF needs to show some honor and resign.

  • jackieB

    Shame on all who had a hand in the demise of this beautiful jaguar. How stupid and spiteful to ensnare an elderly jaguar who just wanted to live in peace. Too late now to ask those in charge to live under the code of ‘treat others [including Jaguars] as you would wish to be treated’.


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