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Rare Jaguars Spotted in Arizona and Mexico

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:30 pm    Post subject: Rare Jaguars Spotted in Arizona and Mexico Reply with quote


The once-common jaguar has become a rare sight in North America, thanks to hunting and habitat fragmentation.

Now two were spotted in exceedingly rare and unrelated events this month.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department caught and collared a wild jaguar in Arizona for the first time, officials said Thursday. While a handful of the big cats have been photographed by automatic cameras in recent years, the satellite tracking collar will now help biologists learn more about this animal's range.

Meanwhile, a jaguar was spotted in central Mexico for the first time in a century. Scientists photographed the cat with an automatic camera set alongside a trail thought to be frequented by the spotted felines.

Jaguars (Panthera onca) once ranged from southern South America to the southern United States. By the late 1900s, none were thought to exist north of Mexico, but two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed jaguars still reached as far north as Arizona and New Mexico. Remote cameras have also photographed jaguars in the Amazon.

The species has been protected outside of the United States under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. That protection was extended to jaguars in the United States in 1997, the year after their presence here was confirmed.

Details of the sightings below.

The Arizona cat

The male cat in Arizona was captured southwest of Tucson during a study aimed at monitoring habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears. The healthy beast weighed in at 118 pounds with a thick and solid build.

Satellite tracking showed the cat traveled more than 3 miles from the capture site in the first day after its release, officials said.

"While we didn't set out to collar a jaguar as part of the mountain lion and bear research project, we took advantage of an important opportunity," said Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. "More than 10 years ago, Game and Fish attempted to collar a jaguar with no success. Since then, we've established handling protocols in case we inadvertently captured a jaguar in the course of one of our other wildlife management activities."

Biologists are trying to determine if the collared jaguar is Macho B, a male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years.

In 1997, a team was established in Arizona and New Mexico to protect and conserve the species. The Jaguar Conservation Team (JCT) began working with Mexico two years later, recognizing that the presence of jaguars in the United States depends on the conservation of the species in Mexico.

Interestingly, the project set up to do all this is funded by Arizona Lottery ticket sales.

The Mexico cat

No jaguars had been spotted in central Mexico since the start of the 20th century.

Scientists trying to find footprints, excrement or any other signs of the jaguars had in recent years interviewed residents, none of whom had ever seen one. Nonetheless, the researchers now report having obtained three photographs of a male jaguar and ten excrement samples that have been attributed to the jaguar, said Octavio Monroy-Vilchis of Autonomous University of the State of Mexico.

In a statement, researchers explained there are 15 areas in Mexico in which it is unknown whether jaguars still exist, whether their populations are stable, and if their habitat is adequate. These areas are important for scientific studies, because they could include crucial zones for the felines' long-term survival.

"The photographs provide information about new recording sites, and allow us to deduce that the area where the animal was observed may be a corridor connecting jaguar populations," Monroy-Vilchis said.

Largest cats

Jaguars are the only cats in North America that roar. They're considered the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere. Adults commonly weigh up to 211 pounds (96 kg), though 300-pounders have been reported. In the northern range they typically weigh between 80-120 pounds, however.

Females breed year-round and have litters of one to four cubs that stay with their mother for nearly two years.

Jaguars can live in several types of forest, grassland and dry habitat. They prey on a variety of animals, including fish, birds and reptiles. The largest contiguous area of habitat now remaining for jaguars centers in the Amazon Basin.
13years of dedication Studying "Cougars" taking sighting reports, Tracking & Filming the wild!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read a follow up article, that I am looking for that they ended up killing this animal "by mistake"...........geese Sad

I will find it.........
13years of dedication Studying "Cougars" taking sighting reports, Tracking & Filming the wild!
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it was sad. But I wonder if the cat was sick when he was caught the first time and he just got worse. They knew there was something wrong because he didn't move enough after they put the tracking collar on. They said he was 16 years old. This was the one they got pictures of over the years.
Tracking down the truth,

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:19 am    Post subject: Ailing collared jaguar put down Reply with quote

Jaguars are protected as an endangered species, but on Monday night one of the rare felines was euthanized after being captured, released and recaptured by state authorities.

The jaguar, about 16 years old, was put down because of failing kidneys.

A necropsy, the term for an animal autopsy, will be completed at the Phoenix Zoo and could offer more information as soon as this week, according to Bill Van Pelt, an endangered-species specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Blood work results as early as today could offer insight into when the animal's kidneys started to malfunction. Officials say that kidney failure is a common ailment in older cats.

The jaguar gained attention when it was found Feb. 18, caught in a snare the Game and Fish Department had set to catch mountain lions and black bears as part of research.

The jaguar was collared with a tracking device and released near Tucson, offering much hope to researchers about the insight they might gain into the feeding and movement habits of the rare species of cat.

But officials became worried when the jaguar stopped moving as much, had an abnormal gait and lost weight.

A team of Game and Fish biologists and a wildlife veterinarian began looking for the jaguar on Sunday. They found him shortly before noon Monday and transported him to the zoo, where he was put down at 5:15 p.m.

The loss of the jaguar hits on an emotional and scientific level.

"The secrets we were hoping to unveil are still going to be secrets," Van Pelt said.

Since 1971, only six jaguars have been documented in the United States.

This particular jaguar was the only one spotted in the U.S. in more than a decade.

Trail cameras first snapped photos of the jaguar in 1996 when the cat appeared to be about 2 to 3 years old. Pictures would capture him from time to time after that, and researchers named him Macho B.

When inadvertently captured last month, they recognized him by his spots.

"I've been with the department for 18 years and Macho B has been a part of my life for 13," Van Pelt said.

He said all sedatives given to Macho B had been tested on other big cats, and all were within prescribed limits.

Before releasing the jaguar last month, wildlife officials had called him a fine-looking animal - even at 16, which state officials said is older than any other known wild jaguar.

Macho B had weighed 118 pounds at that time. Two weeks later, he weighed 99.5 pounds.

"I'm saddened by the death," said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate with the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.

He called the death a blow to the recovery of jaguars.

Robinson's group fought to get the jaguars on the list of endangered species in 1997 and is fighting in federal court for a recovery plan for the animals. Van Pelt said recovery efforts must largely focus south of the border, since he said 99 percent of the jaguar population is outside the U.S.

Historically, jaguar territory extended as far north as the Grand Canyon, Van Pelt said. They live primarily in Mexico and South and Central America.

Republic reporter Emily Dean contributed to this article.

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