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Other jaguars wear study collars

By Tim StellerArizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona – Published: 03.29.2009

Two jaguars are wandering a nearly impenetrable thorn scrub-and-cactus forest in Paraguay, wearing the same sort of collar that was put on the United States’ last known jaguar, Macho B.

The Global Star collars from Virginia-based North Star Science and Technology transmit a radio signal to a satellite system, which researcher Anthony Giordano of Texas Tech University uses to track the jaguars from anywhere. The lithium D-cell batteries can last up to two years.

Scientists frequently use radio collars for studying wild animals. They’re especially useful for learning an animal’s migration and feeding patterns, researchers said.

While the capture and sedation of the target animal can be risky, usually the wearing of the collar isn’t, they said.

Blake Henke, managing partner of North Star, said he donated the $2,500 collar put on Macho B to Emil McCain of the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project in 2008.

Arizona Game and Fish wildlife technicians put the approximately 2-pound collar on Macho B after he was captured in a leg snare on Feb. 18, then sedated.

The collar, made of several layers of industrial belting material, has two small antennas on top and an aluminum enclosure for the battery and transmitter on the bottom, Henke said.

The company’s collars are intended to weigh less than 5 percent of an animal’s body weight, Henke said. In the case of Macho B, the collar amounted to about 1.7 percent of his 118-pound weight.

“We were confident and the biologists were confident the collar was not going to harm the animal’s ability to survive,” Henke said. “We wouldn’t have a business if the collar killed the animals they went on.”

In fact, Arizona Game and Fish has bought 70 or 80 of the collars for use on mountain lions, bears and other animals, Henke said. E-mails among Game and Fish staff members show a strong preference for the collars provided by North Star over another company’s collars.The jaguars in Paraguay, a male and a female, had been kept in a 2 1/2-acre enclosure but were released last week, Giordano said. Through this research project, a sidebar to his dissertation, he hopes to find out what the jaguars eat, what is killing jaguars, and whether their mortality rate is sustainable.

But all efforts to collar a jaguar mean trapping it and sedating it, procedures that bring inherent risks to the animal. And even Giordano, in his main line of research, is pursuing so-called “non-invasive” methods to track jaguar — finding jaguar scat and testing it to determine which individual cat it came from.

http://www.azstarnet.com/metro/286456

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