March 02, 2009 08:00 PM

Arizona wildlife officials have known for a decade that a jaguar or two was roaming around their state, but they never expected to catch one. On February 18 they found the elusive spotted cat, they named “Macho B,” in a leg snare set out to study bears and cougars. They quickly collared the jaguar–the first ever caught in the United States–and fitted him with a GPS collar that will track his movements for 18 months.

An endangered species, jaguars used to roam a large part of the southwest, but were killed off by ranchers by 1972. Then in 1997 scientists started seeing pictures of two male jaguars. Macho A hasn’t been spotted in a while and may be dead. Macho B weighs a healthy 118 pounds and is thought to be 15 or 16 years old. The oldest known wild jaguar was 13.
The small population of jaguars that lives in the Mexican state of Sonora, Arizona and New Mexico is cut off from the rest in Mexico. According to the Nature Conservancy, jaguars are the least studied of all the big cats, but governments are working to get ranchers who might kill the cats interested in keeping them by paying $500 for photos of jaguars living on their land.

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