Emil McCain on Macho B’s Life & Death

I received this from Emil McCain today and I think you will find it well worth reading. Emil tracked and photographed Macho B for years and his thoughts are a nice antidote to some of the crap that’s floating around out there in cyberspace.  I know people are passionate about jaguars, but, man, I can’t believe some of the harebrained things I’ve read in the past few days. There’s a staggering amount of ignorance and anger out there. Ok, here’s Emil:

Requiem for a Jaguar: thoughts on Macho B from the biologist that knew the rare borderlands jaguar.

Emil B McCain M.S.
Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project

Macho B lived a long and magnificent life in a vast and magnificent wilderness.  His presence will be missed greatly. But we need to remember one thing. In the final days of his long life he placed his foot into a snare and gave us a great gift, a gift that will help us to ensure a future for his kind, and quite possibly his offspring, in southern Arizona and New Mexico and northern Mexico.  He was a vey old animal with limited time left; he was going to pass on in the days or weeks to come regardless. All jaguars die.  But he did not die unseen and unknown. All living creatures ultimately strive to ensure the survival of there family. Before Macho B passed on he presented himself to the research and conservation efforts of an amazing collaborative Arizona/New Mexico Jaguar Conservation Team.  His capture drew international attention to this unique and valuable treasure of the Sierra Madres of northern Sonora, Mexico and the Sky Islands of Arizona and New Mexico.  From the day he changed the lives of hunters Jack Childs and Matt Colvin, to the days he posed for trail camera photographs, and then to the day he was air-evacuated to one of the country’s leading wildlife veterinary clinics, he has made the world aware that jaguars still roam in the wild and diverse southwestern United States. His story now ranks with that of Smokey the Bear.  He gave us his valuable DNA, a first for modern science, which will give us genetic information about his origin, his relatedness to other jaguars, and thus the viability of borderlands jaguars.  Macho B has completed his work for the conservation of borderlands jaguars. His death is terribly sad. But it is now up to us to cherish and learn from Macho B’s gift, and we must work together towards conservation for the continued presence of his kind in our wild country.

Macho B was the oldest known wild jaguar in history and that is a clear testament to the habitat quality here in southern Arizona.  The fact that this jaguar was able to survive in this habitat for longer than any other jaguar in any other habitat, not only confirms that jaguars can indeed thrive here, but also that a huge network of public and private lands is currently being managed in a healthy and sustainable way.  But that landscape and that collaborative conservation network is fragile, and we must do everything in our power to maintain that habitat for this magnificent cat.

Macho B roamed over large portions of southern Arizona for at least 13 years, yet to the best of our knowledge, he was only ever seen twice. It remains unknown how many other jaguars may remain unseen within or partially within Arizona and New Mexico.  So far the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project has only surveyed 12% of the potential habitat in Arizona, and there is more to be surveyed in New Mexico.

One important aspect of big cat biology is territoriality, especially in adult males. We know Macho B was a territorial male from the videos we obtained of him exhibiting three different territorial scent-marking behaviors.  When a jaguar’s territory becomes empty it is often filled by another younger male.  It is quite possible that another jaguar will take over Macho B’s territory. However, with no confirmed reproduction in the US since the 1920’s, jaguar presence here is entirely dependant upon dispersal from northern Mexico.  That means we must maintain habitat connectivity across the border and insure their safety in northern Mexico. We clearly have a lot of work to do.

The re-capture of Macho B was absolutely necessary. I had been monitoring his every move from satellite technology. Immediately after the original capture the cat appeared to be totally fine. He behaved exactly as you would expect, he fled the capture site to a secluded area to recover.  However, in the following days it became clear that his movements were not normal, and that he was spending a huge portion of the time not moving.  Collectively, we made the decision to check the sites where he had been, and the tracks found led to further concern.  The following day a wildlife veterinarian made a visual assessment that the cat was in very poor condition and needed further attention.  These things always happen on a Sunday, but the Arizona Game and Fish Department was able to put together the Dream Team overnight.  The best possible individuals gathered with the best possible resources to capture the cat for a full veterinary assessment.  The very difficult and delicate mission was beautifully orchestrated by AZGFD. Guided by my emails and phone calls from Spain regarding the cat’s real time satellite location, the team performed a quick and low stress capture.

His condition of total kidney failure was terribly unfortunate, but somewhat to be expected in a cat of his age. Despite the tragic outcome, the Jaguar Conservation Team and its cooperators have pulled off an amazing feat. I want to personally thank each and every individual who made every effort possible to assist our old jaguar.

Macho B has become an international ambassador for jaguar conservation. As we grieve the great cat’s very unfortunate death, we must not placing blame or let it divide us. Macho B has pulled many diverse sources together for a common goal, and Monday we pulled all of our resources together to help him.  On his behalf, I urge us all to keep that momentum moving forward, beyond political interests and international boundaries and beyond the lifespan of one individual.

There are not words to describe how I feel about the cat’s very unfortunate death.  But I am comforted by the fact that his last sights and conscious thoughts where high on a mountain overlooking his favorite haunts.  May his spirit roam there forever, and may his descendants as well.


Interesting update from the AP here.


Here’s more from the AZ Daily Star in Tucson:

Kidney problems in Tucson jaguar likely preceded capture, doc says

By Tony Davis
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.04.2009
The jaguar that was euthanized Monday due to kidney failure clearly had suffered from the disease before his Feb. 18 capture, but the stress of the capture probably aggravated Macho B’s problems, a veterinarian who treated the cat said today.
“I’m sure kidneys were going bad for some time. Kidneys don’t go bad at the snap of a finger,” said Dr. Dean Rice, the Phoenix Zoo’s executive vice president. “All they are is filters. As we get older, they don’t filter as well.”
But the sedative that Game and Fish researchers gave the cat at the time of capture, along with other stresses associated with capture, probably took a toll on the cat, according to Rice.
“Any medications, any drugs we take, no matter whether you are human or animal . . . if you give them sedation and the kidneys are not working,” the sedative can have a negative effect, he said.
Macho B was captured inadvertently two weeks ago southwest of Tucson, during a research project aimed at capturing mountain lions and black bears, Game and Fish officials said. He seemed healthy and hardy at the time, officials said.
The cat, age 15 to 16, was the last jaguar known to be living in the wild in the United States, officials have said.
But over the past weekend the cat had slowed in its movements and reduced its foraging. He was recaptured on Monday, flown by helicopter to Phoenix and taken to the zoo where a blood test found he had advanced kidney failure.
At the time of Macho B’s death, state and federal wildlife officials had said they hoped that blood samples taken of the cat back on its Feb. 18 capture would show how serious were the kidney problems then. Kidney failure is common in aging cats, the Game and Fish Department said today in a news release.
But it turned out that the blood samples were not taken in a way so they could be used to analyze the cat’s health — only to analyze its DNA, Game and Fish said in the news release. That was the sampling method previously approved as part of a capture protocol developed by leading jaguar experts, the department said.
Now, authorities are counting on an analysis of tissue samples of the dead jaguar to provide clues to how long the cat had kidney problems. The zoo sent the samples on Tuesday to the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Some environmentalists have been critical of the department’s handling of the capture, and expressed concerns that the stress of capture could have led to his death.
Rice declined to criticize the department.
“I’m glad they collared him,” Rice said. Otherwise, “he would have just gone off and died somewhere on his own,” Rice said.

15 Responses to “Emil McCain on Macho B’s Life & Death”

  1. Richard Mahler Says:

    Emil has written a remarkable and eloquent homage to a truly amazing and inspiring animal. He has caused me to consider in a new way all that Macho B contributed to jaguar conservation, without any conscious effort on the cat’s part. Let us hope that Macho B’s passing will bring about some of the much-needed changes in how we manage our landscape for such critters, beginning with a more reasonable approach to barrier construction along the U.S.-Mexico line. Thank you for your words, Emil, and the many long hours you have spent working on behalf of Macho B and other big cats.

  2. Grey Hayes Says:

    Hello Emil and all involved…

    Thank you for all you have done with jaguars. I know this is a sad moment and thank you for keeping up the good work.

  3. Roman Says:

    Arizona Daily Star, April 2, 2009
    “I baited jaguar trap”, research worker says.
    Attorney general opens investigation into capture
    Biologist denies telling worker to use scat to lure cat
    State claimed Macho B’s capture was inadvertent

  4. swjags Says:

    Roman, I already have a link to the story you posted as a comment. It’s at https://swjags.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/the-macho-b-plot-thickens and therefore in the name of saving space I’m going to remove the duplicate text.

  5. Steve Says:


  6. swjags Says:

    Actually, Steve, it’s parole….

  7. dm Says:

    Has emil been found yet? I know he was out of the country when the sentence came down in August.

  8. dm Says:

    I want to clarify: When AZ game and fish commission fined him, he was out of the country. I’m hearing rumors that this 3 time jaguar killer is working with large cats somewhere in South America. Does anyone know if this is true?

  9. Brett Says:

    Emil lied, he helped kill one of the last Jags in this country, and ewe fools applaud his work and lame email? The guy should have been jailed AND never allowed near big cats again he’s killed 3 so far how many more before this buffoon is reined in ??!

    • swjags Says:

      Well, Brett, I think it’s safe to say that Emil did a lot of things during his time in AZ that he regrets and realizes were stupid, unethical and illegal. However, I’d suggest you save some of your venom for the others involved; there’s plenty of blame to share among numerous individuals and agencies. The thing was a cock-up, period.
      That being said, I’m leaving all posts as they are, warts and all. I won’t remove Emil’s words just because of what he did ; they will there for everyone to read and comment on. BTW, I don’t believe any Artiodactyls have commented on this blog, ever. 😛

  10. Brett Says:

    Are you calling me an ungulate sir? Seriously though my “venom” has indeed been shared with the others involved. Emil is not the only one responsible but he did not do the honorable thing and tell the truth, his email sounds like an arrogant rant diverting attention away from what he did in order to make himself sound remorseful. I am a professional biologist and Emil is a poor representative of our profession in my, and others, opinion. Ego and greed killed that cat and it disgusts me to think my tax dollars are paying the salaries of the people involved in Macho B,s death as they work on the new jag project. As far as Emil is concerned I hope the guy stays away from large cats and focuses on something like macro invertebrates, those are about all I would allow him to handle.

    • swjags Says:

      I have to agree, Brett. Between Janay Brun’s blog and the recent Az Republic articles on Macho B’s death, it is apparent that no one involved covered themselves in glory. Period.

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