Q: How many jaguars are there in the United States?
A. The exact number of jaguars that travel within the Arizona-New Mexico borderlands is unknown. Since 1996, four individual male jaguars have been identified in the Arizona-New Mexico borderlands. Photographs suggest, but do not conclusively document, that one or two other male jaguars have also been present in that same area since 1996. But it is unknown how much time any of these animals have spent north of the Mexico border. Biologists believe these individuals are from a population that is centered about 140 miles south of Arizona, in Sonora, Mexico, and that these males use southern Arizona as the northern extent of their territory.
No female jaguars and no evidence of breeding individuals has been documented in Arizona or New Mexico since the presence of jaguars was rediscovered in 1996.
Q: How many jaguars has the Game and Fish Department captured in Arizona? How many jaguars have been captured in the U.S. in recent times?
A. The department has captured only one jaguar and it was captured accidentally. The jaguar that was captured and collared on Feb. 18, 2009 was the first and only jaguar in the U.S. to have been fitted with a tracking collar.
Q: Why was Macho B captured?
A. Macho B was inadvertently caught in a foothold snare intended for capturing black bears and mountain lions as part of a research study that had been ongoing in the area for more than a year. The capture location was outside of the area where the last known jaguar photograph was taken, in January 2009. Three lions and two bears were known to occupy the rugged canyon where Macho B was captured.
Q: Why was Macho B collared instead of just releasing him, especially given his advanced age?
A. Once the jaguar was in the snare, biologists had to tranquilize the animal in order to release him. Since the animal was tranquilized, biologists took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this little-studied species by fitting him with a tracking collar.
When the jaguar was first captured, biologists were not able to identify him and were unaware that the cat was Macho B, an older male that had been known to use the borderlands of Arizona. It was only later that experts identified the cat as Macho B through photos of his unique spots (one on the left side and one on the right). Every jaguar has one or more spots that are as distinctive as fingerprints on a human.
Q: Why was Macho B euthanized? Why wasn’t he released to the wild to die naturally?
A. Macho B was euthanized after expert veterinarians at the Phoenix Zoo determined through blood tests and physical exam that the cat was in severe and unrecoverable kidney failure. Acting on the veterinarians’ recommendation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department decided to euthanize him rather than rerelease him to the wild, where his debilitated condition would likely cause prolonged suffering before death.
Q: Why are some people or organizations upset about what happened to Macho B?
A. Macho B’s death is upsetting and disappointing for everyone involved in wildlife conservation. This jaguar has been a vivid part of our lives, albeit for most of us only through photographs and tracks, for 13 years. People care deeply about all wildlife, but perhaps particularly about endangered species, and Macho B was a magical symbol for all of those values. Unfortunately, some people and organizations are also using this unfortunate incident to try to politically influence the development of a recovery plan and designation of critical habitat for jaguars in the United States. The life or death of a single animal has no bearing on recovery of an entire species, especially whose breeding populations range from northern Mexico into Central America and all the way to Brazil and Argentina in South America.
Q: What information would have been learned from Macho B if he had lived?
A. Biologists hoped to learn how Macho B moved through the borderlands of Arizona, including where, when and how often he crossed the international border. To date, biologists have sporadic photographs of individual jaguars, but these are like dots on a map. Biologists hoped to connect the dots and answer questions like: do the jaguars documented in Arizona travel widely in Mexico, how, where and when they forage for prey, do they return to Mexico for breeding, etc.
Q: What plans are there for the management of jaguars in Arizona?
A. Biologists will continue to monitor remote trail cameras to try to find out if other jaguars are using the southern Arizona borderlands. The Jaguar Conservation Team, led by Arizona and New Mexico’s state wildlife agencies, will continue to work closely with Mexico since the presence of jaguars in the United States depends on conservation of the species in Mexico.
Q: Why was the tracking collar that was fitted on Macho B so large?
A. While there are no regulations on the appropriate size of a tracking collar, experts agree that a collar should weigh no more than 3-5 percent of the animal’s body weight. At less than two pounds, Macho B’s collar was less than two percent of his body weight, and it did not impede his normal movements and ability to catch prey. Tracking collars have been used on jaguars throughout their range; they do not impede a jaguar’s ability to move around, kill prey, or to go about the rest of their normal activities in the wild.
The battery made up the majority of the total collar weight. Battery size dictates how long a collar will transmit signals and how often. Macho B’s collar would have lasted approximately a year and a half while providing location points every three hours.
Q: How did biologists identify that the collared jaguar was Macho B?
A. Photographs taken of the collared animal were compared to trail camera photos taken of Macho B. Jaguars have unique spots that help identify individuals, much like a human’s unique fingerprints. Macho B had one very distinct spot on its left side and another on its right side.
Q: Why can’t biologists learn more about the species through less invasive means?
A. For some species they can. Species that are common and easily observed can often be studied thoroughly without much, if any, “hands on” techniques. But for animals that are uncommon and/or highly secretive, such as jaguars, other techniques must be used. Without the complete data that can be provided by a tracking collar, biologists would continue to just have “dots on the map” without any means of connecting them. Tracking collars are one of the most common and effective tools used by biologists to understand and study wildlife populations.
Q: What will happen or did happen with Macho B's remains?
A. The jaguar's remains are being held pending necropsy results and in case of need for additional laboratory analyses. When they are no longer needed for such analyses, they will be put to the highest and best scientific, educational, and/or (Native American) religious use. As is standard practice with endangered species remains, the Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will agree on what that use or those uses will be. Remains that cannot be put to scientific, educational, or religious use will be disposed of in an appropriate manner (e.g. incineration of soft tissue remains). Meanwhile, current distribution of the remains is as follows: (a) Tissue samples from the trachea, esophagus, lungs, heart, stomach, liver, spleen, gall bladder, bladder, kidneys, small and large intestines, and adrenal glands were removed by The Phoenix Zoo post-mortem and sent to the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (AZVDL). After evaluation at AZVDL, the samples were sent to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Once the USGS Wildlife Health Center has completed its evaluation, the samples or portions thereof will be sent to a veterinary histopathologist/necropsy expert at the University of California at Davis for independent analysis. Remaining samples will be returned to The Phoenix Zoo pending finalization of the necropsy report and the independent reviews. (b) Blood, hair, and swabs are being stored at the University of Arizona, pending distribution for genetic analyses. At least one sample will be sent to the Global Felid Conservation Genetics Program (American Museum of Natural History) for integration into their database for long-term management and conservation of jaguars range-wide. Other samples or portions thereof will be analyzed at the University of Arizona. (c) An additional tissue sample has been banked at the San Diego Natural History Museum in the San Diego Zoo's Conservation and Research of Endangered Species group, pending possible need for further laboratory analysis. (d) A premolar (tooth) was pulled for cementum aging by specialists in Montana. (e) A taxidermist skinned the jaguar carcass and sent the hide to a professional tanner to preserve it for short-term storage and/or any future scientific, educational, or religious use. (f) After the jaguar was skinned, the carcass was placed with the San Diego Natural History Museum. The Museum has cataloged a genetic sample (see above) and is removing the remaining soft tissue to preserve the skeletal remains, which will be cataloged in the Museum's collection pending final distribution.