Whistling for the Jaguar

The un-redacted story of the jaguar, Macho B's snaring and death.

Day 13: Act 3: The Killing

According to Dr. Dean Rice of the Phoenix Zoo: “Cat arrived already having 2 liters of fluid; intubated on portable gas machine; in helicopter without crate, a safety concern. Macho B was picked up at the Phoenix National Guard and transported in crate to Zoo. Immediately did blood in-house analysis; kidney values “off the  scale,” not just slightly elevated. Only treatment, human or jaguar was intravenous fluid or diuresis; either a kidney transplant (none available), or routine kidney dialysis (not feasible). Situation summarized as old cat with kidney failure – problematic for short or long term case management. In less than 5 hours, 4 liters of fluid administered – cat was not dehydrated at this point. Telazol is the knock down drug of choice for the lay person. Telazol would not cause kidney failure if kidneys were healthy; any drug could aggravate kidneys already in decline. Initial blood work on arrival did not show abnormal white blood cell count (i.e. no infection in leg); leg wound was penetrating wound, air under skin, no infection observed; new wound, possibly occurred at time of capture. All 3 attending vets concurred on decision to euthanize. Zoo did not make final decision to euthanize, only the recommendation; actual decision left with AGFD and FWS. A cosmetic necropsy is a full necropsy without opening the skull. Zoo doesn’t determine cause-of-death, but was aware of blood values; diagnosis is generally determined from microscopic analysis from laboratory. Stress factor of capture is significant medical factor in addition to renal failure.”

According to Dr. Alcumbrac: “… One of the leading causes of death in all felines is renal failure… was told that Thorry took a blood sample when he captured Macho B… but the sample was of poor quality and it could not be used to determine the jaguar’s health at that time. Thought it was odd that Macho B was believed to be roaming the borderland between Arizona and Mexico for approximately 16 years without getting shot or caught in a trap and all of the sudden he gets trapped. Postulated that Macho B might have been suffering from some medical issue at the time of its initial capture that precluded the jaguar from being at the peak of its abilities, but without a medical examination at that time no one will ever know. Stated if there was a chance that McCain or Thorry might think they could inadvertently catch a jaguar, then they would be obligated to voice their concerns to their supervisors and, if the decision was made to continue trapping mountain lions and black bears, then Thorry would be responsible for knowing how to handle a jaguar if he caught one… Also stated in his professional opinion that Telazol is a bad choice to use on any animal because there is no way to counteract its effects and the drug must be processed out of the body through the kidneys and the animal has a prolonged recovery time with the drug. Stated that most of the people around the world who do a lot of captures of big cats use a combination of ketamine and medetomidine, as one part of this combination is short lived in the body and the other part can be reversed.”

From the Phoenix Zoo’s evaluation of Macho B: At 3:45 PM, ” Macho B was transferred via stretcher into the treatment room at the Phoenix Zoo hospital. He was maintained on isoflurane via anesthetic machine using a circle system… vital signs were monitored every 5-10 minutes… IV fluids were continued…

Abnormal Physical Exam Findings:

1. Mucous membrane color and capillary refill time: pale pink, CRT < 2 sec

2. Head/neck: Jugular catheter present in left jugular vein, not patent (catheter could not be withdrawn from vein)

3. Mouth: Upper left canine completely fractured into multiple pieces down to the gum line with the root canal exposed

4. Palpation (feeling an object during medical exam): Firm structure palpable mid abdomen, suspect liver or spleen

5. Integument (outer skin): Multiple abrasions on all four limbs and trunk including a few nearly healed minor abrasions around the left carpus, likely from the previous snare trap; patent (could be withdrawn) IV catheter present in left cephalic vein; severe subcutaneous emphysema of the left hip and left hind limb on both the medial and lateral aspects

6. Musculoskeletal: severe decreased range of motion in the left hip, likely associated with previously mentioned emphysema; moderate muscle atrophy of both hind limbs

7. Urogenital: very small, barely palpable bladder despite 2L of fluids given by AZ G&F prior to the arrival at the Phoenix Zoo

8. Body condition is fair to thin

9. Remainder of physical exam was within normal limits

In-house chemistry panel: BUN>180 mg/dl (normal 15-35); creatinine 15.2 mg/dl (normal 1.3-2.5); Macho B also had mild to severe elevation of bilbirubin, calcium, phosphorus, glucose, potassium, protein, and globulin.

Assessment: Multiple considerations were taken into account concerning the outcome of this case. Due to the inability to maintain a recently wild-caught jaguar on adequate IV fluids without also maintaining them under full general anesthesia, IV therapy for the severe azotemia (abnormally high nitrogen containing compounds in blood like creatinine and blood urea nitrogen=BUN) was not possible regardless of the cause of the azotemia (pre, renal, or post). Due to the severity of the broken canine tooth and the exposed root canal, it was not considered to be humane to release the animal into the wild where treatment for the exposed root canal would not be possible and analgesics would not be given as the pain and likely subsequent infection would contribute to other health problems. Other considerations discussed included the unknown cause for the severe emphysema in the hind limb as well as the animal’s lethargy prior to capture and recent weight loss/muscle atrophy. Based on all of these factors, AZ game and fish decided to humanely euthanize the jaguar rather than attempting either extended treatment at the zoo, which would have required additional anesthetic episodes to attempt partial fluid therapy and to perform the needed root canal on the damaged canine, or release back into the wild where the animal would have been without pain management or fluid therapy.”

AZGFD Deputy Director Hovatter was on a conference call with Steve Spangle of USFWS and two vets from the Zoo. Spangle agreed to the euthanization and said he would get concurrence from USFWS Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle.

Spangle emailed Hovatter: ” Redacted and redacted (the names of 2 vets, one probably being Dr. Rice) concur with the recommendation to humanely euthanize the jaguar. A sad but appropriate course of action given the hopelessly terminal nature of his condition. We’ll discuss disposition at a later time, but cosmetic necropsy is also recommended.”

Macho B was euthanized at 5:13 PM.


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