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Animal determined to be oldest known jaguar in the wild
Early data received from the tracking device on the recently captured and collared jaguar in Arizona is already giving biologists a better understanding of the cat’s movement and foraging patterns.
With nearly a week’s worth of data, the Arizona Game and Fish Department noted that the jaguar moved several miles after collaring to a very high and rugged area that the cat has been known to use in southern Arizona. The animal has stayed in that general vicinity for a few days with apparent patterns of rest and visits to a nearby creek. During the collaring, the cat appeared to have just fed on prey, which will aid its recovery and allow it to go for a period of time without feeding.
The satellite tracking technology will allow biologists to study diet and feeding patterns to learn more about the ecological requirements of the species in borderland habitats.
Scientists have also confirmed the identification of the collared animal: The cat is Macho B, an older male cat that has been photographed by trail cameras periodically over the past 13 years.
Macho B is believed to be the oldest known jaguar in the wild. His age was estimated at two to three years old in photographs taken in 1996, making him 15-16 years old now. Previously the oldest known jaguar in the wild was 13 years old.
“Every indication is that Macho B is doing well and has recovered from his capture and collaring,” says Terry Johnson, endangered species coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “With so little known about how jaguars move throughout our state, every little piece of data helps us understand more about the population segment that uses southern Arizona and New Mexico as the northern part of its range. Until now, all we’ve had is a photo here and a photo there, but nothing that shed light on what the species does while moving within or between habitats.”
The GPS tracking collar provides location points for the animal every three hours. 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 is less than two percent of his body weight, and it should not impede his normal movements and ability to catch prey.
The tracking collar was donated by North Star Science and Technology and was specifically programmed for a jaguar in the event this species was incidentally captured during other wildlife management activities.
The collar has a unique feature with a special signal to indicate if the jaguar crosses the international border with Mexico.
Mortality due to predation from other large predators, injuries sustained during prey hunts, roadway crossing, disease, accidents or natural causes is possible.
The male cat was incidentally captured Feb. 18 in an area southwest of Tucson during a research study aimed at monitoring habitat connectivity for mountain lions and black bears.
More specific information on the capture location is being protected under the Game and Fish Department’s standard operating procedure not to release location data on threatened and endangered species and for legal reasons that may leave the department liable for “take” violations under the Endangered Species Act.
The species has been listed outside of the United States under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. That protection was extended to jaguars within the U.S. in 1997, the year after their presence in the Arizona and New Mexico borderlands was confirmed.
In 1997, the Jaguar Conservation Team was established in Arizona and New Mexico to protect and conserve the species.
Jaguars once ranged from southern South America through Central America and Mexico and into the southern United States. By the late 1900s, jaguars were thought to be gone from the U.S. landscape, but two independent sightings in 1996 confirmed that jaguars still used Arizona and New Mexico as part of the northern most extent of its range.
This conservation effort is funded in part by the Heritage Fund and Indian gaming revenue. Started in 1990, the Heritage Fund was established by Arizona voters to further conservation efforts in the state including protecting endangered species, educating our children about wildlife, helping urban residents to better coexist with wildlife and creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Funding comes from Arizona Lottery ticket sales.
For more information about jaguar conservation in Arizona, visit www.azgfd.gov/jaguar. Additional photos of the collared jaguar may also be obtained by visiting this Web site.