Originally Published: March 2, 2009 7:10 p.m.
PHOENIX - Less than two weeks after capturing and collaring a wild jaguar and releasing him in southern Arizona mountains, Arizona Game and Fish biologists Monday afternoon recaptured "Macho B" and took him to the Phoenix Zoo, where veterinarians euthanised him because of irreversible kidney failure.
"It is sad, but the appropriate course of action given the hopelessly terminal nature of his condition," Steve Spangle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Arizona field supervisor, wrote in a press release.
Macho B's death ended a hectic and frantic day after Arizona Game and Fish biologists captured him Monday afternoon and flew him to Phoenix Zoo for medical evaluation.
"Monitoring of recent data revealed a reduced pattern of movement and foraging over the past three days and we brought him in to assess his condition," game and fish biologist Jeff Humphrey said by telephone from Phoenix.
Wildlife specialists tried to capture the lethargic jaguar Sunday.
"They got in very close proximity to him Sunday morning but couldn't capture him," public information officer Lynda Lambert said.
A sharpshooter in a helicopter sedated Macho B with a tranquilizer dart, she said.
Wildlife biologists estimated that Macho B was between 15 and 16 years old, which made him the oldest known jaguar in the wild. His age was one of the reasons that game and fish decided to bring him in for a check-up.
"When the team observed the cat in the field, it was noted that the animal had experienced weight loss and was exhibiting an abnormal gait," Humphreys said.
"He started losing weight and was not moving as far or as wide as we thought he should," Lambert said.
Macho B weighed 118 pounds when biologists captured him Feb. 18 southwest of Tucson. A Jaguar Conservation Team built a special GPS tracking collar in the event they captured a wild jaguar, and they attached it to Macho B.
Wildlife biologists first spotted and photographed Macho B in 1996. Other countries since 1973 have listed jaguars on endangered species lists. The United States did not list them as endangered under the Endangered Species Act until 1997.
Game and fish biologists say that jaguars historically ranged from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States.
"We are at about the northernmost end of their range," Bob Miles, game and fish spokesman said. "We kind of caught him by luck, and the chances of capturing another wild jaguar are pretty slim."
Biologists photographed two jaguars in 1996 - Macho A and B. No one has seen Macho A in several years, Miles said.
"The team got their pictures with remote trail cameras," Miles said. "They named them Macho, which means male in Spanish. We try not to give personal names to wildlife, like Bob, so we can keep our emotional attachment more objective."
If Phoenix Zoo vets had declared Macho B healthy, Game & Fish planned to return him to the Arizona mountains.
"He just didn't make it," Miles said. "He was fairly old for a cat. We got him in the twilight of his life."